“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.”
“A family of robot kits for 3D printers is being developed by Intel, with the first, named "Jimmy," due out in September. The 45-centimeter-tall "social robot" will cost US$1,500. The walking robot, developed in conjunction with Trossen Robotics, is a smaller version of a $16,000 robot shown by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich during a keynote at the Re/code conference in May.”
“Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are currently being considered for many applications, although one factor that a lot of people tend to gloss over is the aircrafts' limited battery range – being able to stay airborne for only 10 to 30 minutes at a time definitely limits their usefulness. Researchers at MIT, however, are developing a possible solution. They're working on a fixed-wing UAV that can perch on power lines and use their emitted magnetic fields to recharge its battery, before continuing on its way.”
At one hour sixteen minutes, this video is sure to contain most of the highlights of AVC 2014, and, due to the use of telephoto lenses, a better view of them than being physically present would have afforded, although nothing can quite replace the feeling of being on the ground below an autonomous UAV that has already given cause for concern that it might be confused. Congrats to SparkFun for putting this compilation together so quickly!
“Virginia Tech hosted a university-wide competition for students to design on-demand, remote controlled 3-D printed aircraft and ground vehicles. The Goal was to build an operational, remotely piloted ground or air vehicle made entirely, or almost entirely, via 3-D printed materials...”
“Appearing on CNBC yesterday, Musk explained that he's invested in more than one AI research company not in hopes of an eventual payoff, but mostly to give himself the best possible vantage point on new advancements. "It's really, I like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is a potential dangerous outcome there," he told host Kelly Evans.”
“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)”
“Flying robots that can show true autonomy – and even a bit of politeness – in working together and venturing into hostile environments are being developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield.”
John Payne's insight:
At the University of Sheffield, robots are building maps of and navigating within their environments, starting from a blank slate, except that they may have prior knowledge about the nature of particular objects, but not their locations. The result is more detailed than a mere map of obstacles to be avoided.
“Following multiple clinical studies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the way for the ReWalk to be sold for personal use in the US. This makes the ReWalk the first motorized exoskeleton designed for people with lower body paralysis due to spinal cord injury to be cleared for personal use in the US.”
“The Federal Aviation Administration has said that online shopping powerhouse Amazon may not employ drones to deliver packages, at least not anytime soon. … The revelation was buried in a FAA document (PDF) unveiled Monday seeking public comment on its policy on drones, or what the agency calls "model aircraft."”
“Clearly, an efficient method for detecting and repairing damaged pipelines is overdue. Engineers based out MIT's Mechatronics Research Laboratory have been developing a concept that might fit the bill. … Normally leaks are detected by acoustic sensors above ground, but the MIT team and their partners at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals have designed a self-propelled robot that will be able scoot around inside the pipes.”
“3D printers are great at creating small objects – and some can even be pressed into doing larger things, such as cars – but a 3D printer able to print a full-sized house would have to be, well, bigger than a house. To tackle this problem, a team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) in Barcelona removed the size restrictions of a printer altogether by using mobile 3D printer robots to print directly on site.”