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The best instrument for promoting:
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Helicopters of the future could use insectlike robotic legs to land in unlikely places — like the slopes of steep hills or the decks of rocking boats.
Touching down on uneven surfaces is something that today’s helicopters are just not equipped to do, according to the Defense Advanced Projects Agency, or DARPA, the branch of the U.S. Department of Defense that dreams up new military technologies. But robotic landing gear developed for DARPA at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) could better equip these aircraft to land just about anywhere.
The new landing gear features four robotic legs with bendable “knees” that turn a normal helicopter into what looks like a giant, mechanical fly. When the chopper touches down, the legs automatically move to stabilize the aircraft, according to DARPA officials, who recently tested out the new system near the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta.
“The equipment — mounted on an otherwise unmodified, unmanned helicopter — successfully demonstrated the ability to land and take off from terrain that would be impossible to operate from with standard
Virtual reality has never looked cool. For all of the technology’s far-reaching promise, from the time when VR as we know it first began appearing regularly in film and TV in the late 1970s, the technology has always seemed pretty goofy: a person sitting slack-jawed, wearing a goofy helmet, spasmodically reacting to unreal apparations that only she or he could see.
Later attempts to make virtual reality look dark and edgy in the 1990s, in films such as Lawnmower Man and The Matrix and the other, often overlooked Keanu Reeves cyberspace movie, Johnny Mnemonic, succeeded less in making VR look appealing, than in making it look threatening and dystopic. Last year, virtual reality’s buffonishness reached an apex when Palmer Luckey, the young founder of Oculus VR, appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine in an illustration that was quickly mocked and Photoshopped into silly memes around the web.
Now that virtual reality is finally becoming widely publicly available — in the high-end forms of Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive Pre, and Sony’s Playstation
Atlas is a robot built to save humanity. Or at least humans. Created by Boston Dynamics, the robotics wing of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Atlas began life as a DARPA rescue robot project. With a requirement that it be roughly human-shaped, much of the work on Atlas is about balance, with some early stumbles. Now that Atlas is much better at walking, it’s moving on to simple tasks, like sweeping a warehouse. Last night, Boston Dynamics released video of a newer, smaller version of Atlas venturing into the world.This new, smaller Atlas is just 5’9” and 180 lbs. It made friends in the wild.Those contacts led quickly to a job at a warehouse.Not everyone at the warehouse was happy to share a workplace with a robot.Some people were, in fact, very unhappy.Fortunately, Atlas was able to pick itself up and walk into a less-hostile environment.It is more morally uncomfortable for the people watching what’s happening to the human-shaped machine than it is for the machine itself. And though the video looks like an anti-robot cruelty ad,
Like an angry ninja, a robot karate-chops a wooden plank, punches through drywall, smashes soda cans and kicks over a trash bin blocking its path in a new video from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The two-legged machine isn’t really a troublemaker. In fact, it’s not actually in control of its own actions. A researcher standing a few feet away from the bot keeps the machine’s every move in check with the help of an exoskeleton — a sort of mechanical belt with armrests that the researcher wears around his waist and upper body.
Engineers at MIT developed the bipedal bot, which they call Hermes, with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). And now, the researchers are developing the human-machine interface to make this technology more useful outside of the lab.
Also known as a balance-feedback interface, the researchers’ exoskeleton translates the natural reflexes of the human body into a language that a machine can understand. Bestowing the robot with humanlike reflexes — for example, having it steady itself by rocking back on its heels after a punch — helps the bot stay upright instead of falling over.
Watching a robot competition can be incredibly exciting, but things tend to move at a glacial pace.
But that didn’t stop hundreds of people from showing up Friday (June 5) to watch the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a two-day competition that pits robots against each other and the clock in a simulated disaster response mission. A robot from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is in the lead so far, after completing all eight of the challenge tasks successfully.
The competition, hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, was inspired by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. After the tragedy, human workers were unable to go in and shut off a valve to prevent a gas explosion; but if they had been able to send in robots to do the job, the worst of the disaster may have been prevented, according to DARPA officials.
While impressive, the robots aren’t exactly sprightly. Watching them move “isn’t quite like watching paint dry, but it’s more like a game of golf,” Gill Pratt, the DARPA program manager in charge of the event, said in a news
It was a good year to be a robot.
In 2015, researchers in Korea unveiled a robotic exoskeleton that users can control with their minds, a four-legged bot in China set a new world record by walking 83.28 miles (134.03 km) without stopping and 3D-printing robots in Amsterdam started work on a new steel footbridge.
But these smart machines are capable of so much more. Researchers around the world are now designing and building bots that will complete more noteworthy tasks in 2016 and beyond. From exploring other planets to fighting fires at sea, here are a few skills that bots could pick up in the new year.
Travel to Mars
Space robots already exist. Robotic arms and hands on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS) assist astronauts during spacewalks, hoist equipment and perform other duties. A humanoid robot named Robonaut 2 also helps out around the orbiting laboratory, doing simple and sometimes dangerous tasks so that human astronauts can focus on other things. And then there are the Mars rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity, which serve as rolling robotic laboratories, exploring the surface of the Red Planet, collecting samples and relaying data
Finally, there’s a crowdfunding campaign for people who want to watch giant robots fight to the death.
MegaBots Inc. — a Boston-based company that builds huge, human-operated, fighting robots — launched a Kickstarter campaign today (Aug. 19) to raise money to develop a huge, gun-toting robot, in preparation for an upcoming “duel” with a similar “battle bot” from Japan.
The campaign has already drawn in nearly $200,000 of the requested $500,000, and robot fans have until Sept. 18 to contribute funds.
In June, the MegaBots team took to YouTube to challenge its one and only competitor, Suidobashi Heavy Industry of Japan, to a robot duel. Suidobashi’s founder, Kogoro Kurata, accepted the challenge a week later, but with one condition: He wanted the duel to be a “melee.” In other words, the bots aren’t just going to stand across a field from each other and shoot paintballs; they’ll go to head-to-head, fist-to-fist, toe-to-toe and all that good stuff.
But why does MegaBots, the proud creator of a very large combat robot, need to raise money for this robot duel? Well, the company’s robot, the Mark II (Mk. II), just isn’t ready for the perils of
If watching giant robots fight to the death sounds like your idea of a good time, then you’re in luck. Two huge, Transformer-type bots — one from Japan, the other from the United States — could soon be facing off in the ultimate futuristic duel.
Last week, the geeks over at MegaBots — a Boston-based startup devoted to the art of robot combat — challenged their one and only competitor, Suidobashi Heavy Industry of Japan, to a duel in a YouTube video. And Suidobashi just accepted the challenge.
The MegaBots team plans to show up to the fight with its Mark II robot, a 15-foot-tall (4.6 meters), manually piloted bot that can walk around and shoot supersized paintballs. Suidobashi’s bot, named Kuratas, is a tad smaller at 13 feet (4 meters) tall, but it packs a more lethal punch with its onboard arsenal of rapid-fire BB guns.
In the video posted by MegaBots, two American flag-clad men describe the Mark II as “12,000 pounds [5,443 kilograms] of gasoline-powered fury,” capable of firing 3-pound (1.4 kg) paintball cans at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (161 km/h). But the folks at Suidobashi seem ready
Earlier this month, the Google-owned robotics company Boston Dynamics released a video of its humanoid robot running through a forest. The RoboCop-type bot, named Atlas, freaked out some people, but the footage also had some tech geeks cheering.
A bot that can run over rough, outdoor terrain is a big deal in robotics, a field in which researchers are constantly working to develop machines capable of moving around outside the lab. Boston Dynamics has a handful of bots that run just as well as Atlas, and researchers from other institutions are also building machines that can ramble about in the real world.
From fish-inspired bots that can swim under ships, to caninelike machines that can gallop up hills, here are five of the coolest, most capable robots out there.
With their heavy torsos and skinny legs, two-legged robots are kind of clumsy. If you need proof, check out the blooper reel from this year’s DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), a humanoid-robot competition hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The Atlas robot was used by several of the finalists who competed in the DRC in June, including the Florida-based team that came in second
It may seem soft and squishy to the touch, but a new robot is tough on the inside and ready to pounce, researchers say.
The 3D-printed bot has hard insides but a soft exterior, and this blend of materials makes it much better at explosion-powered jumps than droids that are either completely hard or completely soft, according to a new study.
Such leaping robots could one day come in handy in harsh environments too dangerous for humans, particularly because the bots are capable of surviving hard falls and other unforeseen circumstances, scientists added
“One wild potential application would be in space — on the moon or Mars or other planets,” said study co-lead author Nicholas Bartlett, a roboticist at Harvard University. “These are unpredictable environments, and a soft robot that can bend and adapt to such environments and put up with a lot of punishment could be really useful. You could also think of more practical applications, such as search-and-rescue missions in disaster scenarios such as collapsed buildings, where a soft robot could go where no wheeled robot could navigate.”
Hard vs. soft
Conventional robots are typically rigid creations. Although they can be
The future of spaceflight involves building, refueling and repairing spacecraft in a depot far from Earth, all without the aid of human hands, officials with the United States military say.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing a highly capable robotic arm that could make such a space “transportation hub” possible in the relatively near future, said former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy, deputy director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
“We think that these capabilities — space capabilities — are not just about a single monolithic satellite with a few capabilities, but instead about a vibrant, robust ecosystem that involves transportation, repair, refueling, upgrading, [and] in situ construction,” Melroy said Thursday (Sept. 10) at DARPA’s “Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum” in St. Louis.
“Look at the great seafaring port cities in the world for inspiration, and imagine a port of call at 36,000 kilometers,” she added.
Thirty-six thousand kilometers (22,370 miles) is the distance from Earth at which satellites fly in geosynchronous orbit, or “GEO” for short. Spacecraft at GEO — which include most operational telecommunications satellites — complete one lap in the same amount of time it takes Earth to rotate once on
Jazz-playing computers and robots could soon yield clues about how to help people collaborate with machines, researchers say.
The new project, called MUSICA (short for Musical Improvising Collaborative Agent), aims to develop a musical device that can improvise a jazz solo in response to human partners, just as real jazz musicians improvise alongside one another.
MUSICA is part of a new program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the branch of the U.S. military responsible for developing new technologies. The project is designed to explore new ways that people can interact with computers and robots.
“There is definitely a desire for more natural kinds of communications with computational systems as they grow in their ability to be intelligent,” Ben Grosser, an assistant professor of new media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Live Science. “A lot of us are familiar with various methods of interacting with computers, such as text-based and touch-based interfaces, but language-based interfaces such as Siri or Google Now are extremely limited in their capabilities.”
Grosser and his colleague Kelland Thomas, an associate professor of music at the University of Arizona, are developing MUSICA to explore how
Robots in space aren’t limited to science fiction: NASA has a long list of robotic technologies currently operating in orbit and benefiting humans, even though astronauts don’t yet have anything like a trusty R2-D2 bleeping comments and questions.
The space agency recently released a list of robotic technologies already in use on the International Space Station, ranging from complex robotic arms to humanoid helpers.
Perhaps the longest-standing example of robots on the space station is the Canadarm series of robotic arms and hands, located on the outside of the orbiting laboratory. The Canadarm and Canadarm2 date to the second shuttle mission in 1981, and are used for applications such as assisting astronauts during spacewalks, hoisting equipment or, in Canadarm2’s case, helping cargo-carrying spacecraft dock with the station. Dextre, a robotic hand, has done robotic refueling demonstrations, among other tasks.
On Earth, some of the Canadarm technologies have had medical applications. For instance, a device called neuroArm can make brain surgery more precise, and the Image-Guided Autonomous Robot targets tumors.
Astronauts are also working alongside Robonaut 2, a dexterous humanoid that is designed to flip switches and do other simple, monotonous tasks so that astronauts can focus on more
Robotics company Boston Dynamics released a new video yesterday (Feb. 23) showcasing its upgraded Atlas robot, and the footage features a slew of impressive (and somewhat unsettling) new capabilities.
The humanoid Atlas robot, which has been overhauled with a sleeker design, can be seen at the beginning of the video walking around untethered before it opens the front door to Boston Dynamics’ office and steps outside. The bot is then seen walking on uneven and snowy terrain, maneuvering around trees and correcting its balance several times. [Watch the Atlas Robot Video]
The new-and-improved robot is “designed to operate outdoors and inside buildings,” Boston Dynamics wrote in a description of the video posted on YouTube. “It is specialized for mobile manipulation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, assess the terrain, help with navigation and manipulate objects.”
Indeed, the video goes on to show Atlas bending down to pick up 10-pound (4.5 kilograms) boxes and pivoting its torso to place each package on a shelf. In another instance, a human handler uses a hockey stick
What does a Picasso painting smell like?
For individuals with synesthesia, catching the odor of, say, plum, while scrutinizing a painting from Picasso’s blue period is just part of experiencing the world. A small percentage of the population are synesthetes, or people who interpret sensual stimuli with more than one sense — smelling colors, or tasting sounds for example. While very few people have access to this unique perspective on the world, there is now a way for the rest of us to get a taste, or whiff, of what synesthesia is like.
Zachary Howard, an aerospace engineer completing a fellowship at Autodesk, created a mask that mimics the effects of synesthesia using a color sensor, microprocessor and essential oils. By linking a sensor worn on the finger to an Intel Edison chip on the armband, Howard’s device breaks any object’s color scheme down into the three primary colors that correspond to three scent reservoirs. This information is transmitted to a system of fans and servo motors that controls how much of each of each scent to release. The smells flow up to the mask, and the wearer gets a constantly-changing odor portfolio that represents
A war waged by remote control with military drones from thousands of miles away may sound like one of the most impersonal conflicts imaginable. But the film “Eye in the Sky” shows how modern drone warfare can also be intensely personal with the surveillance capability to watch a potential human target for hours on end. The timely thriller also does not shy away from the thorny issue of how military commanders and political leaders weigh the value of human life in a world transformed into a global battlefield.
The central conflict of the film rests upon a familiar scenario: weighing the cost of an innocent life against the possibility of saving dozens more lives by preventing a suicide bombing. The urgent mission quickly draws together a wide cast of characters scattered across the globe. Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) spearheads the the military effort from a UK military command center. Lieutenant General Frank Benson (the late Alan Rickman in his final film role) represents Powell’s superior officer coordinating with the higher echelons of the British government at Whitehall in London. Jama Fara (Barkhad Abdi) and his team gather intelligence on the ground in Nairobi, Kenya with the assistance of special micro drones. Meanwhile,
Facebook Reactions are here, and they’ve been a long time coming.
Since at least 2012, Facebook has been searching for ways to make its service more expressive. In the minds of product developers and managers at the social media company, there shouldn’t be an emotion that you can’t express on Facebook. The group’s quest brought them all the way back to Charles Darwin, with pitstops at Berkeley University and Pixar Labs.
The Reactions rolled out today are meant to be a quick way to express a flash of emotion, like amazement, a laugh, anger, a pang of sadness, or the feeling of love. Facebook has taken these emotions and assigned them animated emoticons with bits of text: Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry. These don’t replace the Like button, but are meant to be used alongside it.
Really like something? Pop a Love on it. See an awesome photo of a double rainbow? Drop some Wows.
This is huge. The Like button is iconic and monolithic, and the last remaining binary (on or off) feature that Facebook has. Businesses hang “Like Us On Facebook” on their doors, and the Like has pretty much been
Google may not have announced anything at this year’s Mobile World Congress 2016, but that hasn’t stopped Android from taking part in the festivities. The first letter in Google’s Alphabet took to MWC to tout Android Experiments—a group of open source projects that run on the search company’s mobile platform. Among these projects: your face. Well, sort of.
“All it takes is Ytai’s code and some experience with physical computing,” Google’s Isaac Blankensmith tells us. “If you’ve used an arduino, you can do it.”
The algorithm chooses the darkest point [of the photo],” says Blankensmith, who works as a designer part of Google’s Creative Labs. “And then within a radius, it looks at 200 other random points. Of those, whichever is darkest is where it draws the next line to. And it repeats that over and over again, until it draws one continuous
Greg Otto at fedscoop wrote this interesting piece about IBM’s Watson-as-a-Service.
The ability to understand natural language queries is a big deal. You can ask, for example: “I’m going to be in Boston. I like basketball. What do you suggest, Watson?” You might get several answers: Celtics tickets, Boston College tickets, Harvard tickets. Or in the offseason, Watson may suggest you drive to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield (MA). Companies are already using Watson this way. Fluid, Inc.’s Watson-based retail solutions deliver granular results to queries such as “I am taking my wife and three children camping in upstate New York in October and I need a tent.” Consider this: Watson has been taught to pass the medical boards. Would you trust it to diagnose you and prescribe medication? What if you claim to be in pain (e.g., back pain, migraines, depression) and Watson doesn’t believe your subjective input? Here’s more food for thought: What if Watson could learn to code? Why not? It’s hardly heretical to suggest that as Watson works with developers, it will one day be able to generate solutions based on a natural language query. That’s equally