Older blog entries for jwp9447 (starting at number 70)

Robotic Sea-Glider Achieves First Unmanned Underwater Transatlantic Crossing

Cold robotic purpose can apparently break records as well as human fortitude

Charles Lindbergh may have shown human fortitude by flying across the Atlantic in his "Spirit of St. Louis," but now he has robotic company when it comes to transatlantic records. An underwater robotic glider built by Rutgers University students and scientists has achieved the first underwater robot crossing, after traveling beneath the waves for 221 days.

Rutgers researchers joined some Spanish colleagues today aboard the "Investigador" ship to recover the drone, after launching it on April 27, 2009 off the coast of New Jersey. The submersible bot made its 4,591-mile journey at the slow but steady pace of 4 centimeters per second.

Scarlet Knight: There and back again  Rutgers University

Named "The Scarlet Knight" for Rutgers sports -- despite its fine yellow appearance -- RU27 technically already claimed its transatlantic record on Nov. 14 after 201 days at sea. But the Rutgers team clinched the accomplishment after recovering the scarlet lady, and reportedly gave her a dose of champagne to celebrate.

Rutgers University alone has a small underwater fleet of up to seven gliders operating off the coast of New Jersey, with one even cruising around the Antarctic. The U.S. Navy has likewise deployed a number of drone submersibles (not to mention sea mammals), and private companies may also soon send out swarms of underwater explorers for oil prospecting.

Looks like Scarlet won't be too lonely the next time she decides to take a dip.

Tracking Scarlet: A journey's end is reached  Rutgers/Google

Syndicated 2009-12-04 17:01:02 from Popular Science - robots

Optical Sensors in Robots' Skin Give Them A Softer Touch

Whether they are assisting the elderly, or simply popping human skulls like ripe fruit, robots aren't usually known for their light touch. And while this may be fine as long as they stay relegated to cleaning floors and assembling cars, as robots perform more tasks that put them in contact with human flesh, be it surgery or helping the blind, their touch sensitivity becomes increasingly important. Thankfully, researchers at the University of Ghent, Belgium, have solved the problem of delicate robot touch.

Unlike the mechanical sensors currently used to regulate robotic touching, the Belgian researchers used optical sensors to measure the feedback. Under the robot skin, they created a web of optical beams. Even the faintest break in those beams registers in the robot's computer brain, making the skin far more sensitive than mechanical sensors, which are prone to interfering with each other.

Robots like the da Vinci surgery station already register feedback from touch, but a coating of this optical sensor-laden skin could vastly enhance the sensitivity of the machine. Additionally, a range of Japanese robots designed to help the elderly could gain a lighter touch with their sensitive charges if equipped with the skin.

Really, any interaction between human flesh and robot surfaces could benefit from the more lifelike touch provided by this sensor array. And to answer the question you're all thinking but won't say: yes. But please, get your mind out of the gutter. This is a family site.

[New Scientist]

Syndicated 2009-12-01 22:54:54 from Popular Science - robots

Sighted: Afghanistan's Mystery UAV

Since April, a steady string of reports have detailed sightings of a mysterious, unidentified UAV prowling the skies above Afghanistan. Grainy, Loch Ness Monster-like photos revealed a flying-wing-type aircraft with stealth features.

Now, the French blog Secret Defense has published the clearest photos yet of the secret plane, and the mystery has only deepened.

The plane pictured above is clearly a next-generation UAV, but the question of which next-generation UAV it is has led to some debate. At first look, Steve Trimble of The DEW Line thought it resembled Lockheed's Polecat. However, Popsci's resident UAV expert Eric Hagerman pegged the mysterious drone as Boeing's X-45. Then again, John Pike of GlobalSecurity.net noted "for every UAV program we know about, there's one that we don't know about," suggested the new UAV may be part of some previously unannounced program.

In many ways, the confusion only highlights the uniformity of the next generation of UAVs. Both the X-45 and the Polecat incorporate stealth features, resemble the flying-wing shape first perfected by the B-2, and have just enough development behind them that battlefield testing doesn't seem unreasonable.

Amazing. A mere seven years after the CIA carried out its first drone strike, the Predator's replacements have already arrived in theater.

[Secret Defense, via The Dew Line]

Syndicated 2009-12-01 18:58:07 from Popular Science - robots

At the International Robot Exhibition in Japan, Robots For Your Every Need

Want a nap? Hate walking? Need uncomplaining workers? Robot makers have something for you

That economic recession has hardly slowed down the growing swarm of robots designed for almost every task imaginable.

Many of them showcased their skills at Japan's International Robot Exhibition 2009, along with a host of human handlers. Consumers in the market for a pair of robot skates need not hold their breath for much longer.

Launch the gallery for a selection of our favorite 'bots.

Syndicated 2009-11-30 20:30:07 from Popular Science - robots

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

Leave a comment to win a TWITF t-shirt!

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


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


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

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