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Science

Milestone Reached in Brain Mapping Project

Posted 13 Jun 2012 at 18:45 UTC by steve

A CSH Lab news release says neuroscientists at the Brain Architecture Project have reached an important milestone. They've released the first installment of the 500 terabytes of data from the whole-brain wiring diagram of a mouse brain. The data is in the form of gigapixel whole-brain slice images. It's possible browse through the brain to the desired 20 micron-thick slice, then view the image, zooming it the level of individual neurons. Most importantly, the image data is being released in an open science initiative, freely available for anyone to view and use in their research. The technical approach used was developed by Partha P. Mitra.

"The pragmatic approach Mitra advocated and which is realized in this first data release, is to image whole mouse brains in a semi-automated, quality-controlled process using light microscopy and injected neural tracers (both viruses and classically used tracer substances). While the basic methodology has been available for some time, systematically applying it to a grid of locations spanning the entire brain, and digitizing and re-assembling the resulting collection of brains, is a new approach made feasible by the rapidly falling costs of computer storage."

For more details see the Mouse Brain Architecture Project Technical White Paper. This is just the first step in the overall brain architecture project. After the mouse brain, there's the Human Brain Architecture project which has the potential to do for the human brain what the human genome project did for our genes.

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Robots

Random Robot Roundup

Posted 7 Jun 2012 at 22:47 UTC by steve

There's a cool Robotics Trends article on robotics researchers studying how mosquitoes survive flying through rain when every raindrop is 50 times the mass of the mosquito. The idea is to make micro air vehicles that sturdy. The Swirling Brain tells us robot lifeguards are on the way. Nootrix did a post recently in which they speculate about using ROS with the new LEAP gesture sensor. IEEE Spectrum published an interesting piece about educational robotics in Africa. And Slate posted an essay by Dale Dougherty on how we could improve education in the US by replacing standardized testing with a program of teaching kids to do real things, like building robots and rockets. NASA, well known for building robots and rockets, let us know they're ready with their new autonomous robot competition in which teams have built planetery rover style sample return robots. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. And don't forget to follow us on twitter.

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Interviews

Robert J. Wood Interview

Posted 3 Jun 2012 at 23:53 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Robert J. Wood (see also), Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and a Core Member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and previously mention here in connection with a novel fabrication technique developed by his group at the Harvard Microrobotics Lab, has been awarded an Alan T. Waterman Award. He appears in the above video in an interview format with the interviewer's questions edited out.

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Interviews

Robots Podcast #105: Fish & Mannequins

Posted 2 Jun 2012 at 23:27 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Maarja Kruusmaa and Diana Saarva

Professor Maarja Kruusmaa received her PhD. in Computer Engineering from Chalmers Univeristy of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden) in 2002. She was appointed head of the Tallinn University of Technology (TUT) Center for Biorobotics in 2008. Her work there includes the Robotic Fish LOcomotion and SEnsing (FILOSE) project, which is the main subject of the first half of her conversation with interviewer Per Sjoborg. Following that she is joined by Diana Saarva, COO of Fits.me a company which produces robotic mannequins that adjust themselves to match the proportions of individual clothing customers, making it possible for them to remotely view how particular garments will look on them. Professor Kruusmaa has served as the R&D Director for Fits.me since 2009.

Read On or Tune In

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Sensors

Floating Sensor Network: Putting Water Online

Posted 1 Jun 2012 at 16:56 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

The above video was posted one day prior to a major, much-publicized experiment, tracing water movement in California's Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta, which is prone to reversals in the direction of flow. A more polished video produced on the occasion of the launch of 100 floating sensors into that river system appears after the break. The Floating Sensor Network is a project of the University of California at Berkeley, involving the Lagrangian Sensor Systems Laboratory (LSSL), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL), and the California Department of Water Resources.

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Robots

MIT's Cheetah Acquires New Gates

Posted 31 May 2012 at 16:04 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

In early March, Boston Dynamics posted a video (embedded after the break) showing the Cheetah robot they are developing for DARPA running at 18 miles per hour (a new record for a robot running on legs), without any stabilization straps attached. More recently the MIT Biomimetic Robotics Lab has posted videos of their version of the Cheetah, first walking (embedded after the break), then trotting, with some stabilization (embedded both above and after the break). The MIT version appears to be more complex than the Boston Dynamics version, particularly in the way the legs are jointed, but also in the way the rear legs connect to the rest of the body, although it's impossible to tell whether what appear to be vertebrae, in the MIT version, are actually functional as such, from the video alone.

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Robots

Juggling Two Balls with One Hand & Fast Vision

Posted 31 May 2012 at 14:59 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Also presented recently at ICRA, Takahiro Kizaki and Akio Namiki from the Graduate School of Engineering at Chiba University in Japan demonstrated a system comprised of a fast vision system (500 fps) coupled with a fast robotic arm and three-fingered hand, capable of juggling two balls by tracking them in the air and adjusting accordingly. Automaton has more detail.

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Robots

Aggressive Flight Using Laser Scanner, IMU, & 3D Map

Posted 30 May 2012 at 16:13 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Evan Ackerman, writing for IEEE Spectrum's Automaton blog, says

Researchers at MIT CSAIL have decided that slow and obstacle-free flight is boring, so they’ve come up with a way to get MAVs navigating at high speed, indoors, around obstacles, without needing motion tracking or GPS or beacons or any of that nonsense. All they need is a little aircraft that can carry a planar laser rangefinder, an IMU, and a pre-existing 3D occupancy map that the MAV can localize itself in.
This research has been conducted by the Robust Robotics Group (RRG), led by Nicholas Roy. A paper explaining it in detail was presented at ICRA by graduate student Adam Bry. A similar video using a quadrotor (embedded after the break) appears on the personal page of RRG Research Scientist Stefanie Tellex, which is worth a visit for the cat video she's also posted! (IMU = Inertial Measurement Unit)
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Robots

Catching up with Robots (May 28th, 2012)

Posted 28 May 2012 at 19:30 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

The above video, by Erico Guizzo and Evan Ackerman of IEEE Spectrum, and shows Patrick Rowe, of RE2 (RE-squared), the firm hired by DARPA to build the standard platform for their ARM program, putting a completed unit through its paces at ICRA.

There's much more after the break!

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Robots

TE+ND Rover Indiegogo Campaign

Posted 27 May 2012 at 23:27 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

TE+ND (Terrestrial Exploration + Nurture Designed) Rovers are an interactive art project that explore migratory ecology in an era of climate change. The designers are soliciting funds via an Indiegogo Campaign (similar to Kickstarter) to pay for parts to build a full-size version.

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