Older blog entries for jwp9447 (starting at number 66)

This Week in the Future, November 23-26, 2009: Thanksgiving Special

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There's a lot to be thankful for in the future. Gather 'round the table, all you Navy Sea Lions, Jazz Bots, Star Wars enthusiasts and ethical scientists. Today is a day for futuristic feasting.

(Get the details, and win the t-shirt, after the jump).

What a wonderful Thanksgiving week it's been here on PopSci.com, and what a fascinating future lies before us:

Wasn't that just delicious?

Love our graphic? Win this t-shirt!

Leave a comment (any comment) to put your name in the pile; we'll randomly choose and announce our winner right here next Friday, December 4. And, if you just can't wait that long, you can buy the shirt for yourself here. Good Luck!

Congratulations to last week's winner, PopSci user "Dane619."

Until next time. Enjoy our past weekly illustrated roundups here.

Syndicated 2009-11-26 17:08:52 from Popular Science - robots

A.I. Anchors Replace Human Reporters In Newsroom of the Future

In the great media reshuffling ushered in by the Internet Age, print journalists have suffered the most from online journalism’s ascent. Broadcast journalists, however, may be the next group to feel technology’s cruel sting. Engineers at Northwestern University have created virtual newscasts that use artificial intelligence to collect stories, produce graphics and even anchor broadcasts via avatars.

The project, dubbed “News At Seven,” goes beyond simply regurgitating news stories gleaned from the Web. The system can generate opinionated content like movie reviews or pull the most relevant facts from a box score to pen a hometown sports story. The AI is even learning to crack wise, injecting humor into reports. But don’t take our human-generated word for it, check out the NSF video below.

[National Science Foundation]

Syndicated 2009-11-25 18:40:37 from Popular Science - robots

Video: Improvising Jazzbot Jams With Humans, Really Swings

Advances in robotics have lead to automatons that can do everything from ski to open doors to help the elderly.

Now, thanks to the Takanishi Laboratory at Waseda University in Japan, robots have learned a new trick: how to jam.

Waseda University had created robots that play musical instruments before, but simply replaying a recorded piece wasn't enough. Researchers created an algorithm that allows the robot to combine visual cues from its cameras with audio cues from its mics to actually respond to a human partner. So far, the robot can only mimic what a human plays, but eventually, the researchers hope the robot can begin improvising and deviating from mimicry. One day, this bot will really swing.

In the video below, a human saxophone player plays a couple of notes, and the robot responds. The playback isn't perfect, and the robo-flutist hardly gives Roland Kirk a run for his money, but this is the first step towards a truly hep bot.

[IEEE Spectrum]

Syndicated 2009-11-25 15:42:45 from Popular Science - robots

Robotic Arm Opens Doors For the Wheelchair Bound

For people confined to wheelchairs, the proliferation of ramps has greatly enhanced their mobility. Unfortunately, opening doors remains an omnipresent, and frustrating, challenge. Oddly enough, opening doors also presents a serious impediment for anthropomorphic robots. Now, robotics engineer Erin Rapacki has solved both problems with a single stroke.

Continuing a student project she began at University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Rapacki has created a cheap robot arm that can serve as a door-opening assistant to wheelchair bound humans, or as the primary arm for mobile robots. The trick was finding the right material for the fingers, something hard enough to grasp the handle, but supple enough fit a range of shapes.

Rapacki created the arm to use only one motor, utilizing a slip clutch to allow the arm to twist and push (or pull) at the same time. Altogether, the arm only cost $2,000 to build.

Now if only she could do something about the height of elevator buttons...

[New Scientist]

Syndicated 2009-11-24 21:04:28 from Popular Science - robots

24 Nov 2009 (updated 26 Nov 2009 at 02:02 UTC) »

NASA Robotic Rocket Plane To Survey Martian Surface

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Since budget cuts and the inability to overcome problems like boredom and high radiation doses have ruled out any manned mission to Mars in the foreseeable future, NASA has shifted gears back towards a program of robotic exploration. To that end, NASA now wants a rocket-powered UAV to fly around the Red Planet, photographing the surface.

The plane, repetitively named ARES (not to be confused with NASA's shuttle replacement, also named ARES), would fly to Mars in a regular rocket. Once it reaches the fourth rock from the Sun, it would pop out of the capsule, deploy its wings, and fire the rockets for an hour-long flight through the Martian sky. During that flight, ARES would cover about 373 miles, which is a little less than 100 times the area covered by the Spirit rover over the last five years.

Any aircraft flying on Mars would need some serious horsepower. The Martian atmosphere is 169 times thinner than the air here on Earth, so generating lift over ARES's wings may prove tricky. NASA has already devoted five years to initial design, but still has a long, long way to go before this thing takes flight. Of course, when the end product is a Martian rocket plane, the wait is worth it.

[The Register]

Syndicated 2009-11-24 18:29:22 from Popular Science - robots

18 Nov 2009 (updated 21 Nov 2009 at 12:06 UTC) »

iPhone Touchscreen Interface Puts Robot Control At Your Fingertips

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Adding a new wrinkle to the 'droid versus iPhone debate, a project at Keio University in Tokyo have created iPhone software specifically designed to control androids. More specifically, they've created an interface that puts control of a humanoid robot right at your fingertips.

"Walky" takes advantage of an iPhone or iPod's touchscreen to create an intuitive interface that requires virtually no learning. Your fingers simulate the robot's legs: a walking motion using the index and middle fingers makes the robot walk, tapping the screen makes it jump up and down, and a flicking motion with one finger elicits a kicking motion.

The idea is to make the robot's motion as intuitive as possible. Most controller commands, like joysticks, paddles and buttons, don't have any natural relation to each other. That's why you keep getting fragged in Modern Warfare; until you become very familiar with the controls, your knee-jerk reactions aren't necessarily the ones programmed into the game. By making the robot respond to commands that the user already knows, they've created a sort of universal remote that anyone can pick up and start using.

On that note, the team at Keio thinks their software could also be employed in controlling digital characters -- think on-screen avatars in video games -- but for now it's best suited to bipedal robots. While it won't be integrated into gadgets this holiday season, it will debut officially in December at SIGGRAPH Asia in Yokohama.

[DesignBoom via Fast Company]

Syndicated 2009-11-18 14:33:47 from Popular Science - robots

Robotic Surrogate Takes Your Place at Work

Having one of those days where even a hearty bowl of Fruit Loops and Jack Daniels can't get you out of bed? A telepresence robot can come into the office for you, elevating telecommuting to a decidedly new level. The somewhat humanoid 'bots, produced by Mountain View, California-based Anybots, are controlled via video-game-like controls from your laptop, allowing you to be "present" without actually being in the office.

The robots are equipped with a screen displaying your smiling mug to your co-workers, as well as a camera that beams a feed straight to your computer screen. They're also mobile, so you can still drop by co-workers' offices unannounced, presumably to let them know that a robot will be filling in for you today. There are a few variations that Anybots is toying with, including one with long arms and hands, and another with a laser pointer that, while useful for pointing things out in a physical environment, will prove slightly less cool than Johnny 5's shoulder-mounted laser cannon.

In all seriousness, Anybots plans to have a telepresence robot to market in the second half of next year. While it may seem to be little more than an expensive videoconferencing link (the product is expected to retail between $10,000 and $15,000), it could be a valuable tool in workplace environments where a more physical presence is handy, such as for U.S. businesses trying to keep an eye on manufacturing floors overseas. After all, you never know when a surrogate might come in handy.

All right, all right. See QA operating from both sides of the link in the (real) videos below.

[Anybots via Technology Review]

Syndicated 2009-11-17 21:16:26 from Popular Science - robots

Doctors Equip Yorkshire Man With Cyborg Sphincter

Meet Ged Galvin, the Steve Austin of colorectal surgery. After a car crash in which Galvin almost died, surgeons at Royal London Hospital realized they could rebuild his crushed organs. Stronger. Faster. They had the technology to give him a cyborg colon.

"The operation changed my life and gave me back my pride and confidence," Galvin told the Daily Telegraph.

After he spent a short time with a colostomy bag, the doctors surgically removed muscle from Galvin's leg, fashioned it into an ersatz sphincter, and surgically implanted electrodes into the new muscle ring. Doctors then installed the device in Galvin.

Now, Galvin is free from the indignity of a colostomy bag. He controls his functions with a small remote control, about the size of a cell phone, that operates the electrodes. Now he can do his business at his leisure, although the muscles and electrodes will need replacement every five years. "Because of the remote control I can lead a normal life again," Galvin said.

Armed with his new sense of confidence, all Galvin has to do now to steal Steve Austin's crown is fight Sasquatch.

[Daily Telegraph, via Geekologie]

Syndicated 2009-11-17 16:47:08 from Popular Science - robots

Robo-Negotiator Talks Down Armed Lunatic

Hostage situations are often described like explosive devices, as ticking time bombs waiting to go off. And just as bomb disposal units have robots to help with their job, now police negotiators have a bot of their own for defusing a different kind of explosive situation.

In Colorado, a heavily armed 61-year-old man had barricaded himself in his home. Afraid that the volatile suspect would shoot anyone sent in to negotiate his surrender, the police found themselves at an impasse. Then, they sent in the robot.

The police equipped a bomb disposal robot with a microphone, a camera, and speakers, and maneuvered it into the house. An operator navigated the droid to the suspect, and then began to talk him down. Eventually, the man surrendered to the robot, and was taken into police custody.

Usually, when Murphy said "dead or alive, you're coming with me", the "alive" option rarely panned out. This robocop, however, already seems to be getting better results.

[Glenwood Springs Post Independent, via The Register]

Syndicated 2009-11-12 16:33:14 from Popular Science - robots

11 Nov 2009 (updated 15 Nov 2009 at 11:28 UTC) »

Soccer-Ball-Sized Submersible Robots Will Track Ocean Currents and Disasters at Sea

The National Science Foundation has awarded almost $1 million to develop a swarm of underwater robotic explorers <!--paging_filter-->

Hundreds of soccer-ball-sized robot drones could soon ply the friendly waves to help scientists track ocean currents and harmful algae blooms, or even swarm to disaster sites such as oil spills and airplane crashes. That's no mere flight of fancy, now that the National Science Foundation has provided almost $1 million in funding to researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
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The underwater swarm would coordinate with larger mothership drones as they move around and gauge the physics of ocean currents. Such information might allow researchers to scout out critical nursery habitats in protected marine areas, and might likewise lead salvage teams to recover the black boxes from airplane crash sites.


"You put 100 of these AUEs [Autonomous Underwater Explorers] in the ocean and let 'er rip," said Peter Franks, an oceanographer at Scripps. "We'll be able to look at how they spread apart and how they move to get a sense of the physics driving the flow."

More data gathered over time could also feed into better ocean models that try to capture the ocean weather and climate.

Scripps researchers first plan to build five or six prototypes the size of soccer balls, along with 20 smaller versions. They would join a growing fleet of underwater robots ranging from U.S. Navy submarine drones to ring-wing robots designed for oil exploration.

[via PhysOr g]

Syndicated 2009-11-11 19:02:03 from Popular Science - robots

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