While just about everyone knows that bats locate prey in the dark using echolocation, one thing that many people may not realize is the fact that horseshoe bats are particularly good at it. With this in mind, engineers are now developing a sonar system that emulates the system used by those bats.
“Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capability is currently limited by the amount of energy that can be stored onboard. Airborne docking, for mid-air refueling, is a viable solution that has been implemented with manned aircraft for decades, but prior to our experiments this had not been achieved with UAVs.”
“The Hurt Locker got it only partly right. Just ask Brian Castner, a former bomb technician with the US military. He served three tours in the Middle East, two of which were spent leading an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, and deployed small remote-controlled robots to battle a blitz of insurgent-rigged car bombs and improvised explosive devices in and around Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2006. Castner and his crew grew so reliant on these machines, which can disarm explosives from afar, that they considered them part of the team. Years later, does he still feel an attachment to the machines?”
“The MC3D … takes another approach to laser-scanning. After a scene is initially imaged and the three-dimensional depth of all the objects within it is assessed, the laser only subsequently re-scans areas where and when visual changes are detected.”
“Like its namesake, DORA was born to explore. Specifically, the robot—which was built by a team of students at the University of Pennsylvania—is designed to be a kind of exploration surrogate, able to move its head with the same speed and flexibility as the human seeing through its eyes. DORA's movements are mapped to an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, so when the goggle-wearer swivels left, the robot follows suit. It provides something seemingly unprecedented in robotics: telepresence from the neck up.”
Michiel Bakker dives into how Google is working to build more sustainable communities, using tech to build engagement and the food program's 5-year plan.
John Payne's insight:
If you believe, as I do, that augmentation is the twin sibling of robotics, the relevance of this article will be plain. Otherwise, you'll need to remember that Google is heavily invested in robotics and read between the lines.
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“Motherboard gains exclusive access to a small fleet of US Army bomb disposal robots—the same platforms the military has weaponized—and to a pair of DARPA’s six-foot-tall bipedal humanoid robots. We also meet Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, renowned physicist Max Tegmark, and others who grapple with the specter of artificial intelligence, killer robots, and a technological precedent forged in the atomic age. It’s a story about the evolving relationship between humans and robots, and what AI in machines bodes for the future of war and the human race.”
“When Prabal Dutta accidentally drops a computer, nothing breaks. There’s no crash. The only sound you might hear is a prolonged groan. That’s because these computers are just one cubic millimeter in size, and once they hit the floor, they’re gone. ‘We just lose them,’ Dutta says. ‘It’s worse than jewelry.’ To drive the point home, Dutta, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan, emails me a photo of 50 of these computers. They barely fill a thimble halfway to its brim.”
John Payne's insight:
Perhaps just as interesting is the related MBus, “a chip-to-chip bus designed for ultra-constrained systems … a multi-master bus supporting an arbitrary number of nodes, priority arbitration, efficient acknowledgements, and extensible addressing, with only four wires and consuming only 3.5 pJ/bit/chip.”
In a marked departure from conventional consumer drone design, US startup Ascent Aerosystems has developed a two-prop aerial vehicle with a HD-quality camera and cylindrical form that's designed to be conveniently slid into a backpack when you're headed outdoors.
Google has announced that it is to begin testing its self-driving cars on public roads in California. The first complete prototype was unveiled late last year. The new pilot will allow Google to study public responses to the cars and have them face real-world challenges.
“Unlike conventional lasers, which use mirrors to bounce light back and forth through a gain medium (kind of like an amplifier), this new nanolaser contains an array of reflective gold nanoparticles that accomplish the same feat on a considerably smaller scale. Previously-developed nanolasers used solid gain materials, which provide a fixed wavelength, but the Northwestern team used a liquid (more specifically, an organic dye) instead.”
“Tencent Holdings Ltd. released an operating system for smartphones and smartwatches Tuesday as it tries to win more of the 557 million Chinese accessing the Internet through mobile devices. The software, called TOS+, provides voice recognition and includes payment systems, Chief Operating Officer Mark Ren said during the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing.”
“At its annual, somewhat exclusive Tech Day event, ARM has detailed its new high-performance CPU core: Cortex A72. In simple terms, the A72 is a faster, more efficient, and smaller version of the Cortex A57. The first 16nm FinFET mobile SoCs with the Cortex A72 CPU will likely ship in 2016, fabricated by TSMC.”
“While the futuristic vision of micro and nanorobotics is of intelligent machines that navigate throughout our bodies searching for and destroying disease, we have a long way to go to get there. Progress is being made, though, and the past decade has seen impressive advances in the fabrication, powering, and control of tiny motile devices. Much of our work focuses on creating systems for controlling micro and nanorobots as well as pursuing applications of these devices. As systems such as these enter clinical trials, and as commercial applications of this new technology are realized, radically new therapies and uses will result that have yet to be envisioned.”
“The system Mole Solutions wants to put in place uses the same maglev technology adopted by Japan's super-fast Shinkansen train. In a maglev-powered system, the natural repelling forces of electromagnets are used to keep the carriage hovering slightly above the track, thus cutting down on friction and increasing speed.”
John Payne's insight:
This proposal is reminiscent of PRT technologies, which have been under development for decades, as described on the Innovative Transportation Technologies website: http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/
“A smartphone-controlled robotic chef that can cook world-class food using recipes downloaded from an online store sounds like pure science fiction - but the robot is real, will go on sale in 2017 and just made me a crab bisque.”
“The world burns or cuts down about 26 billion trees a year. It replants about 15 billion. You can see the shortfall. At the moment, we're not planting trees quickly enough to combat deforestation—a problem with big implications for climate change. That's why Lauren Fletcher wants to automate the process with drone technology. His startup, BioCarbon Engineering, plans to seed up to 1 billion trees a year, all without ever setting foot on the ground. ‘The only way we're going to take on these age-old problems is with techniques that weren't available to us before,’ Fletcher says. ‘By using this approach we can meet the scale of the problem out there.’”
This is one important example of a more general principle, which is that, to compete with irresponsible but profitable enterprises, more responsible methods must be made economical, and robots can help with this.
“Other than target selection, semi-autonomous weapons are allowed to have every technical capability that a fully autonomous weapon might have, including the ability to seek, detect, identify and prioritize potential targets, and to engage selected targets with gunfire or a homing missile. Selection can even be done before the weapon begins to seek; in other words, it can be sent on a hunting mission. Given this, it would seem important to be clear about whatever is left that the human operator must do.”
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