We’ve started with a clean sheet of paper. We’re re-evaluating the whole approach to agriculture. At the moment, crops are drilled in straight rows to suit machines, but what if they were drilled to follow the contours of the land, or to take account of the micro level environmental conditions within a portion of a field? The potential boost to production we could generate if harvests were staggered to suit the crop rather than mechanisation is immense. We’re talking about micro tillage, mechanical weeding and planting using small, smart, autonomous, modular machines.
DARPA has issued a Sole Source Intent Notice for humanoid robot systems for their Robotics Challenge Program. The contract is to go to Boston Dynamics, who will produce a set of eight identical humanoid robots based upon the PETMAN and Atlas projects they have already undertaken with DARPA support (see above video). These robots will be supplied to software teams competing for the Challenge prize. Automaton provides additional detail.
Do you like your chocolate shaped into 3D forms? If so you're in luck. A 3D printer for chocolate, developed at the University of Exeter, has gone on sale. Create your own chocolate castles! Next question, does it work with white chocolate?
A video on Vimeo (not embeddable here), from a user identified only as Amanda Erickson, models what appears to be an uncontrolled, multi-lane intersection with most or all of the vehicles passing through it independently computer controlled, although perhaps with better information about other vehicles in the intersection than could be accounted for by on-board sensors alone. The priorities implicit in the rules being applied appear to be collision avoidance first, followed closely by minimization of the delay caused by passing through the intersection (throughput).
While some contextual details, such as the name of the institution within which the project took place, are missing from the above video, which shows the design, construction, and initial use of a remote-controlled vehicle with 3.5 G cellular connectivity, it seems worthy of attention, both for the project itself and for the visual experience of the video, which transforms a limitation of the hardware (a low dynamic range camera that overexposes bright areas against a darker background) into an artistic advantage. A second, longer video shows the reactions of people in the street to the presence of the vehicle. In other news, Automaton has the official word on DARPA's humanoid Grand Challenge. The first running of this Grand Challenge is expected to occur in late 2013 or early 2014, with the second running to take place one year later. And finally, while the HUBO might possibly form the basis for one or more entrants in DARPA's humanoid Grand Challenge, the HUBOs are currently otherwise engaged. A recently posted video shows four of them playing "Come Together", by the Beatles. (video after the break)