“The autonomous K-MAX robocopters were originally scheduled to spend just six weeks in Afghanistan undergoing evaluation as they delivered pallets of cargo to remote bases. But the robots did such a fantastic job that their contract with the Marine Corps was extended indefinitely. It only ended (after nearly three years) because the Marines require less logistical support now. ”
“If constraints on power, communication, or computation mean that the robots can’t pool their data at one location, how can they collectively build a model? … At the Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence conference in July, researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems will answer that question. They present an algorithm in which distributed agents — such as robots exploring a building — collect data and analyze it independently. Pairs of agents, such as robots passing each other in the hall, then exchange analyses.”
Introducing HeatWave, our next generation handheld technology for heat mapping and 3D imaging. This lightweight mobile device can generate real time precise 3D models of objects or scenes, overlaid with accurate temperature information. Currently a research prototype, HeatWave is expected to have applications in industries such as energy, building, manufacturing, construction, emergency services, and health.
CROPS – an acronym compounded from "Clever Robots for Crops" – is an EU 7th Framework program which has supported the development of robotic technologies for care and harvesting of high value crops. The new leaflet provides a sampling of results from projects which received CROPS support over the last four years.
“When pressure is applied to the surface of one of the sensors, their pliable half-sphere shape is slightly deformed, an action which instantly changes this distribution of infrared light from the LED inside. Photodiodes at the base of the sensor pick this up so that a clever piece of software may calculate the deformation and, therefore, the force currently being exerted on the sensors by an object.”
“This review article analyzes state-of-the-art and future perspectives for harvesting robots in high-value crops. The objectives were to characterize the crop environment relevant for robotic harvesting, to perform a literature review on the state-of-the-art of harvesting robots using quantitative measures, and to reflect on the crop environment and literature review to formulate challenges and directions for future research and development.”
“In episode #160, Robots Podcast speaks with Kyle Vogt, the CEO of Cruise. His company recently joined the “driverless revolution” with their release of RP-1. This system is a highway autopilot that can be installed in your existing car.”
John Payne's insight:
This is not a let-the-car-drive-while-you-sleep system, but it can provide unblinking attention while you relax.
“The SparkFun Autonomous vehicle competition is an annual race between home-made autonomous vehicles. This year SparkFun held its annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition at the Boulder Reservoir. Check out all the action!”
“The United States is likely to face a serious shortage of farm labor in the years ahead — especially as Mexico gets richer and sends fewer low-wage workers our way. … Enter the machines. In recent years, companies have been developing driverless tractors guided by GPS. Or drones that can monitor plant health from afar. Or sensors that can automatically figure out where fields need water. Or fully autonomous cow milkers. … Robots are slowly expanding into other areas, too.”
“BugJuggler is a 70 ft (21 m) tall robot that its designers claim will hurl full-size cars into the sky and catch them again in mid-air. Designed to use a diesel generator, enormous hydraulic rams, and hydraulic accumulators to allow for rapid movements, BugJuggler will not only be impressively large, but exceptionally agile for its size.”
John Payne's insight:
Before you start planning your next vacation around an opportunity to go see this machine in action, note that the people behind it are still working to put the funding together, and that there is not yet even a projected completion date, although work has begun on a smaller, single-arm prototype.
“A team of Swiss and French researchers have … identified a simple agricultural practice that does little to alter the average temperature of farming areas. But it does have a strong effect on extreme temperatures, lowering them by nearly 2°C. That should be enough to keep existing crops viable for longer in the face of future climate change. The technique in question is called "no-till farming," and it simply involves leaving the debris from previous crops on the surface of the fields rather than plowing the fields and exposing the soil underneath.”
One of the newest 4-H projects to hit the streets in recent times has met with great success and excitement. And why not? It offers individual development, opportunities to work as a member of a team, involvement with technology, experiences with problem solving, competition, travel AND it is attractive to adolescents. What is this magical project called? 4-H Robotics!
“The [human] World Cup may have finished a few weeks ago, but there was another one played in Brazil just last week. The annual RoboCup competition was held in João Pessoa, including the robot soccer World Cup.”
I doubt the narrator of this video would recognize roboticists as allies, and also expect that many roboticists won't immediately see a connection. That connection is encapsulated in the word "attention". In a world in which farmers are hard-pressed to find enough help at a wage they can afford, there isn't enough attention to go around, With the result that crops not requiring so much attention are substituted for those requiring more, and, where no subsidies exist, concern for environmental issues go wanting. Robotics can supply the needed attention, in the most basic sense for now, but eventually in all senses of the word.
“The new ASIMO has been launched in Brussels with a variety of improvements. Many of those improvements are refinements of existing capabilities, but are no less impressive for it. … Improved intelligence allows the robot to recognize the faces and voices of multiple simultaneous speakers, and to change its behavior based on the perceived intention of the other party.”
“The mechanization of farm labor drove massive productivity gains, and today, agricultural workers make up just over 2% of the workforce. … Now, another revolution is underway – the outright automation of farming. Farm robots are increasingly capable of autonomously performing complex tasks including plowing, plant and soil surveillance, and even the harvesting of fruit and vegetables.”
“In a recent interview, the co-founder of Google discussed how he thinks people shouldn't work so much, and we start having robots do most of the work! Should robots be taking our jobs? Laci discusses how robots might make our lives a lot easier!”
John Payne's insight:
This is a good, condensed inventory of many of the various considerations which emanate from the prospect of automation displacing humans in more and more roles. If you've been following this debate, you won't find a lot new here, but you may be reminded of aspects you'd forgotten about.
“The radar creates a doppler map, and recognizes not only the vehicle, but how far away it is and how quicky it’s approaching. It communicates this to the cyclist by a system of LEDs, and to the car by increasing the rate at which the tail light blinks as the car gets closer.”
John Payne's insight:
While the application described here is for use on a bicycle, it shows that radar technology has become compact enough, serving information in a sufficiently distilled form, to be useful in robotics.
If you're going to deploy robots in biological settings – for example, inside the body – it makes a lot of sense to build those robots out of actual biological body parts. Muscle, for example, is a very effective, biodegradable replacement for an electric actuator that can run in a nutrient-rich fluid without the need for any other power source.
“The University of Sydney’s Ladybird robot is capable of conducting mobile farm reconnaissance, mapping, classification, and detection of problems for a variety of different crops. … [It] is the culmination of a lot of previous work from a research team lead by Professor Sukkarieh at Sydney University, committed to the development of farming robotics in such things as sensory technology, materials advances and complex autonomous mechanisms.”
In our rapidly changing, globalized world, we all need to understand how food has made us who we are today and how it shapes our future. Starting with the May issue of National Geographic magazine and continuing through 2014, National Geographic explores our complex relationship with what we eat and where our food comes from.
“Program manager Gill Pratt spent over an hour explaining what we have to look forward to in Southern California (yes, the Finals will be held in California!) next June (yes, the Finals are not happening this year, as DARPA decided to give teams some extra time)”