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UAVs for Agricultural Weed Control

Posted 3 Apr 2013 at 19:17 UTC by steve

Precision Agriculture is a hot topic these days as researchers look for ways to reduce the massive amounts of chemicals that are currently sprayed on food crops. A new research paper describes one of the ways robots may help in Early Season Site-Specific Weed Management (ESSWM). In the study, a UAV equipped with a multispectral camera collected images of sunflower field infested with naturally occurring weeds. Similar imaging techniques using traditional satellite and aerial methods to adjust herbicide distribution have yielded up to 50% reduction in the total amounts of herbicides used. The researchers hope to replicate this process using the less expensive flying robot. From the paper:

Weeds are distributed in patches within crops and this spatial structure allows mapping infested-uninfested areas and herbicide treatments can be developed according to weed presence. The main objectives of this research were to deploy an UAV equipped with either, RBG or multispectral cameras, and to analyze the technical specifications and configuration of the UAV to generate images at different altitudes with the high spectral resolution required for the detection and location of weed seedlings in a sunflower field for further applications of ESSWM. Due to its flexibility and low flight altitude, the UAV showed ability to take ultra-high spatial resolution imagery and to operate on demand according to the flight mission planned.

In the experiment, an MD4-1000 VTOL quadcopter from Microdrones GmbH was used (pictured above). The UAV was equipped with GPS, waypoint navigation software, telemetry logging, and two cameras: an Olympus PEN E-PM1 point-and-shoot digital camera and a Tetracam Mini-MCA-6 six-band multispectral camera. The immediate research goal in this project was to figure out what sensors and image processing techniques would work, so further improvements are quite likely. Now all they need to do is find a catchy name for this technology: weedbots? agridrones? herbidroids? For all the details, read the paper "Configuration and Specifications of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for Early Site Specific Weed Management" by Jorge Torres-Sánchez, Francisca López-Granados, Ana Isabel De Castro, and José Manuel Peña-Barragán. Read on for some photos showing sample imaging data from the UAV and waypoint navigation paths over the test crop.

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Robots

Best Robot Photos of the Week

Posted 2 Apr 2013 at 18:41 UTC by steve

In this exciting edition of best robot photos of the week find out what happens when Lunar robots need gas, see a Cyberman's severed head, check out the Cyton Gamma 1500 arm, see a FIRST team waiting with their robot for a final match, and see a toy based on one of those goofy robots from Disney's Black Hole movie. Lots more interesting stuff, of course, but easier seen than explained. Every week we post a collection of the best robot photos submitted by our readers to our robots.net flickr group. Why? Because everyone likes to see cool new robots! Want to see your robot here? Post it to flickr and add it to the robots.net flickr group. It's easy! If you're not already a flickr member, it's free and easy to sign up. Read on to see the best robot photos of the week!

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Science

Teaching Robots to Lie

Posted 1 Apr 2013 at 19:23 UTC by steve

Learning to lie and deceive others is as basic to human social interaction as cooperation. Deceiving opponents and detecting possible deception is basic to all sports, for example. Lying through omission in daily conversation in order to avoid hurting someone's feeling is another common example. Researchers refer to these as "deceptive and non-cooperative behaviors" and robots will need to learn to deceive and detect deception if they're going to keep up with humans in social situations. The IEEE Intelligent Systems journal devoted an issue to this topic in December of 2012. The journal is normally pay-walled but the Computational Deception and Noncooperation issue has been made open access through the Computing|Now website and it's well worth a read. It includes article on modeling and detecting deception, biologically inspired robot deception, deception in sports and immersive environments, non-cooperative agents, non-verbal clues to deception, and a few other interesting topics. You can bet this issue is on Bender's reading list.
CC BY 2.0 photo of Bender by Liam Daly

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Robots

Random Robot Roundup

Posted 29 Mar 2013 at 22:49 UTC by steve

We're trying out a new format for the Random Robot Roundups that should make them easier to read for the Power Point Generation. Let us know what you think!

Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. Don't forget to follow us on twitter and Facebook. And now you can add us to your Google+ circles too.

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Robots

New Video of Mantis, the Two Ton Hexapod

Posted 28 Mar 2013 at 22:00 UTC by steve

Mantis is a hexapod robot powered by hydraulics and built by Matt Denton. Mantis weighs 1900 kg and covers about 5 meters when standing still. The powerplant is a 42kw Perkins 2.2 diesel engine. 18 hydraulic actuators move the legs. Computer control is provided by a PC-104 controller running GNU/Linux and HexEngine. The robot is equipped with a suite of sensors that includes 6 force transducers, 6 ankle ball joint angle sensors, a body inclinometer, as well as hydraulic and diesel engine monitoring sensors. From the Mantis website:

"This is definitely the largest hexapod we have built so far", says Micromagic founder and Mantis' chief designer Matt Denton. "This walking machine started as an idea back in 2007, we secured private funding in 2009 to start the project and - after three years of design, build and testing - the robot made a first successful test drive in the summer of 2012 at Bestival UK."

Just reading about Mantis is not sufficient to fully grok the awesomeness of this giant robot. Read on for video of Mantis in action! More photos and info on Mantis can be found the Mantis Facebook page

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Robots

Best Robot Photos of the Week

Posted 27 Mar 2013 at 16:17 UTC (updated 28 Mar 2013 at 22:06 UTC) by steve

Today's edition of best robot photos of the week features a really nice photo of an early Boston Dynamics Big Dog prototype. And how about a Zen robot, a cross-eye 3D image of an art robot, a preview of the robot apocalypse, the Gundam Cafè, and a few other visual robotic treats. Every week we post a collection of the best robot photos submitted by our readers to our robots.net flickr group. Why? Because everyone likes to see cool new robots! Want to see your robot here? Post it to flickr and add it to the robots.net flickr group. It's easy! If you're not already a flickr member, it's free and easy to sign up. Read on to see the best robot photos of the week!

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Interviews

Robots Podcast #126: International standards

Posted 27 Mar 2013 at 16:10 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Prof. Gurvinder Singh Virk

In Robots Podcast #126, interviewer Per talks with Gurvinder Virk about his involvement in the creation of new international standards for robotics. Virk is a Professor of Robotics and the Built Environment, at University of Gävle, Sweden as well as Professor of Robotics and autonomous systems at KTH, Sweden. Professor Virk is a leading actor in international robot standardisation and the Convener of two robot safety work groups, ISO TC184/SC2/WG7 Personal care robot safety, and IEC TC62/SC62A & ISO TC184/SC2 JWG9 Medical electrical equipment and systems using robotic technology.

Read On | Tune In

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Aquatic Robotics

The Pars Rescue Robot Won't Let You Drown

Posted 27 Mar 2013 at 01:38 UTC by steve

Amin Rigi of the RTS Lab in Tehran, Iran let us know about a new rescue robot they're working on. The robot is named Pars. it's a ship-based quadcopter that responds instantly when alerted to potential drowning victims in the ocean, locating them with FLIR, and dispensing life preservers directly over them. The current prototype carries one life preserver and they are working on a new model to carry three life preserver rings. Future models may dispense up to 15 self-inflating rings. A launching platform for use on ships has been designed but more intriguing is an idea for a stand-alone launching platform. From the website:

A sea platform has also been designed for the robot. This platform used satellite data for its control and it uses solar energy for its energy. It is always in the water and the robots are ready for action. When a marine incident occurs it quickly operates and sends the robots to the event to help.

In both cases, the launching platform also serves as a recharging station, keeping the robots in a continual ready state. This looks like a great project and we look forward to seeing future progress reports on the Pars robots. Read on to see some renderings of the robots in action as well as the designs for the launching platforms.

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Science

Humanoid Robots Interviewing Children

Posted 25 Mar 2013 at 23:08 UTC by steve

The KASPAR humanoid robot, developed at the University of Hertfordshire has previously been used in studies of human robot interaction with normal and autistic children. We reported in 2007 on KASPAR being used to teach social skills to autistic children. According to a recently released paper, KASPAR is now being used by researchers interested in finding out if children interviewed by a humandoid robot respond in the same way as to human interviewers. In particular they wanted to find out if children would be more or less willing to disclose information to robots. The results surprised the researchers, who had expected to see some preference in the children for either robots or humans. From the paper:

The results were contrary to our expectations. Rather than having a clear preference, the children behaved very similarly towards either of the interviewers (human/robot). The children used similar amounts of words, keywords and filler words when responding to both the robot and the human interviewer. There was also very little difference in the amount of words the children used relative to the amount of words the interviewer used. These findings illustrate that the children communicated with the robot in a similar way to which they did the human interviewer.

They did find one interesting difference. Their measure of the children's eye gaze reveals they spent much more time looking at the robot's face during interviews than they did with human interviewers. For all the details, read the paper by Luke Jai Wood, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Austen Rainer, Ben Robins, Hagen Lehmann, and Dag Sverre Syrdal, titled Robot-Mediated Interviews - How Effective Is a Humanoid Robot as a Tool for Interviewing Young Children?.

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Aquatic Robotics

Robotic Ocean Cleanup Arrays

Posted 25 Mar 2013 at 20:35 UTC by steve

Boyan Slat has launched the Ocean Cleanup Foundation to develop safe methods of cleaning the billions of tons of plastic that humans have dumped into the world's oceans, where they are poisoning the food chain. His solution involves arrays of booms that would direct small plastic particles into robotic collection platforms. The arrays would be anchored along the radius of the ocean gyres where the massive plastic garbage patches form. The arrays are powered by ocean currents and the booms allow sea life to safely avoiding being trapped. Even better, researchers estimate the system could collect as much 7.2 billion kg of plastic (around a third of what's out there) in a form that could be profitably recycled. From the projects website:

Is it the perfect solution? No. We will be able to retrieve billions of kilograms of plastic from the oceans, but that still won't be 100% of what's in the world's oceans. We’ll need a combination of extraction from the oceans and prevention on land in order to succeed. One of the problems with preventive work is that there isn’t any imagery of these ‘garbage patches’, because the debris is dispersed over millions of square kilometres. By placing our arrays however, it will accumulate along the booms, making it suddenly possible to actually visualise the oceanic garbage patches. We need to stress the importance of recycling, and reducing our consumption of plastic packaging. Furthermore, by developing systems that will intercept plastic before it reaches the sea, we hope to further reduce the impact of plastic on the oceans.

For more see the Ocean Cleanup Project FAQ, see the Wikipedia article on Marine Debris, and for other robotic solutions for cleaning up the plastic, see Resources relevant to sampling and removal of plastic from oceans. Read on to see Boyan Slat's TEDxDelft talk: How the oceans can clean themselves.

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