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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 1

Toshiba testing its 'scorpion' robot inside Fukushima nuclear reactor

Toshiba is deploying its "scorpion" robot inside of the TEPCO Fukushima No. 1 plant's second reactor next month. The mission is focused on trying to analyze the pressure vessel's melted-down fuel supply, and a robot is needed because of such high levels of radiation inside the reactor. The Japanese electronics company worked with the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) to design the unique scorpion-inspired robot.

 

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A "snake" robot entered a reactor in April, and couldn't find any debris from melted fuel - the robot stalled and researchers had to go back to the drawing board. The 21-inch Toshiba device will enter a fuel rod passageway, and has a physical design that provides increased dexterity and range of motion. It has the ability to raise its tail in a similar fashion as a scorpion, which has LED lights and an equipped camera.

 

Researchers will likely have to spent decades trying to safely decommission the No. 1 plant, after it was devastated by a major earthquake and following tsunami in 2011.

Robot accidentally kills worker in Volkswagen auto factory

Volkswagen officials confirmed an incident at a company production plant in Germany, after a robot grabbed a worker and crushed the 22-year-old. One other contractor was reportedly witness to the incident, with Volkswagen currently conducting an investigation.

 

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Early indications blame human error while they were setting up the robot. The robot being installed is designed to complete assembly tasks and is located in a relatively isolated area of the factory floor. These types of automated robots use sensors that identify human movement, and can be programmed to shut off if a worker gets too close.

 

These types of accidents do occur, and this certainly isn't the first robot-involved death, but there are concerns related to robots. "It wasn't the first time - but timing is everything," as "people are getting their knickers in a twist about 'the robots taking our jobs,'" said Paul Saffo, a technology futurist, in a statement published by the Financial Times.

Continue reading 'Robot accidentally kills worker in Volkswagen auto factory' (full post)

Another researcher shares concerns with artificial intelligence

Dr. Stuart Armstrong is a member of the Oxford University Future of Humanity Institute, and the Oxford academic believes humans are risking our own survival depending how artificial intelligence (AI) developments occur in the future.

 

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"Humans steer the future not because we're the strongest or the fastest, but because we're the smartest," Dr. Armstrong recently said. "When machines become smarter than humans, we'll be handing them the steering wheel."

 

Even though the thought that robots are able to coordinate across the world without human oversight may sound irrational, the idea that humans are creating AI in itself would have seemed impossible not too long ago. If done properly, using artificial general intelligence (AGI) could greatly impact our lives for the good - but no one is really sure what will happen beyond that.

Continue reading 'Another researcher shares concerns with artificial intelligence' (full post)

SpaceX will be just fine despite latest Falcon 9 rocket mishap

The SpaceX Falcon 9 exploded a couple minutes after takeoff over the weekend, possibly due to excessive pressure built up in the second stage's liquid oxygen tank. The incident marked the first time in 19 Falcon 9 launches there was a problem, and SpaceX will continue its work to try to get things sorted out.

 

 

"The launch failure by itself is not much of an issue," said Bill Ostrove, analyst at Forecast International Aerospace, in a statement to Forbes. "Most people in the industry understand that launching rockets into space is really difficult and occasional failures are just the price of conducting launches. Overall, SpaceX has a pretty strong record of success (about 95%) with the Falcon 9."

 

Unfortunately, SpaceX does have a few things it needs to work out - the company has suffered two commercial cargo failures in less than one year, and the most recent launch failure means there will be a delay for an investigation.

Continue reading 'SpaceX will be just fine despite latest Falcon 9 rocket mishap' (full post)

Elon Musk would like the chance to retire on Mars, biographer says

Elon Musk gets a lot of attention for his work as CEO of Tesla, but it would seem that SpaceX, his space company, holds true potential for human greatness. The company isn't designed to cater rich tourists into space, and Musk would rather launch satellites and ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

 

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NASA and other space programs hope to launch future missions to Mars, including a possible manned mission to the Red Planet. It seems that thought isn't necessarily lost on SpaceX, which continues to develop space rockets:

 

"I know for a fact that the guys within SpaceX already have a design for the engines and the rocket that would get to Mars," said Ashlee Vance, biographer of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, in a statement to National Geographic. "Knowing the caliber of talent there, I trust that that part is feasible if not profitable. The colonizing part? That's still an enormous question."

Continue reading 'Elon Musk would like the chance to retire on Mars, biographer says' (full post)

Astronauts heading to Mars will likely need a flexible spacesuit

Researchers have a strong curiosity about the red planet of Mars, and a manned mission one day seems like a possibility. However, the spacesuits used by astronauts aboard the International Space Station would need to be replaced with newer generation spacesuits, and some type of flexible spacesuit would be ideal.

 

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The suits designed for space today must take into consideration an astronaut's ability to complete work in microgravity. The lower half of the suit is extremely stiff and makes moving around more naturally difficult - but increased mobility would be required for future space missions.

 

Astronauts must be able to twist, bend, and move around easily, especially if they needed to take soil samples or collect items from a foreign planet. A number of different prototype spacesuits are currently in development - and some are being tested - so there is hope that changes will be coming.

Continue reading 'Astronauts heading to Mars will likely need a flexible spacesuit' (full post)

Creating video games to help gamers actually lose weight?

Research teams from the University of Exeter and Cardiff University want to develop a video game that is able to actually help gamers by controlling our need for junk food.

 

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To win the game, a player must press images of healthier food options instead of unhealthy snack foods. This game is said to help condition the players, so they will make similar food choices while raiding the refrigerator or rummaging through the food pantry.

 

"This research is still in its infancy and the effects are modest. Larger, registered trials with longer-term measures need to be conducted," said Dr. Natalia Lawrence, research team lead, in a public statement. "However, our findings suggest that this cognitive training approach is worth pursuing: it is free, easy to do and 88 percent of our participants said they would be happy to keep doing it and would recommend it to a friend. This opens up exciting possibilities for new behavior change interventions based on underlying psychological processes."

Continue reading 'Creating video games to help gamers actually lose weight?' (full post)

UC Berkeley developing robot cockroach able to navigate itself

The US Army is helping fund a research project at the University of California, Berkeley, with a focus on developing intelligent robots that don't require extra sensors or software. The robot, which physically looks like a cockroach, is able to overcome obstacles on its own.

 

 

The ability to teach robots and AI to identify - and successfully navigate obstacles without human guidance - is a difficult task.

 

"The majority of robotics studies have been solving the problem of obstacles by avoiding them, which largely depends on using sensors to map out the environment and algorithms that plan a path to go around obstacles... however, when the terrain becomes densely cluttered, especially as gaps between obstacles become comparable or even smaller than robot size, this approach starts to run into problems as a clear path cannot be mapped," said Chen Li, lead author of the UC Berkeley research, in the Bioinspiration & Biomimetics journal.

Continue reading 'UC Berkeley developing robot cockroach able to navigate itself' (full post)

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes after launch, ISS crew will be fine

The unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded two minutes after launch, when its two stages were expected to separate. This is the first time in 19 launches that ended in failure, as the 63-meter rocket was able to complete six cargo trips to the ISS and has a 15-flight contract with NASA.

 

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Musk offered a second statement: "There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Data suggests counterintuitive cause. That's all we can say with confidence right now. Will have more to say following a thorough fault tree analysis."

Continue reading 'SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes after launch, ISS crew will be fine' (full post)

Google engineer says humans will be hybrids by 2030 thanks to nanotech

We're only 15 years away from the year 2030, where we're expected to see human brains assisted by nanobot implants that will turn us into "hybrids", according to one of the world's leading thinkers.

 

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The Director of Engineering at Google, Ray Kurzweil, has said that in the 2030s, we will see implants connecting humans to the cloud. We would then be able to pull information from the cloud, from our own brains, all while information will be allowed from your brain to the cloud, letting you back your brain up to the cloud. You know, in case of a bad hangover one night, you could just restore your brain to the night before. #backsupforlife

 

Kurzweil has said that as the cloud accessing our brain improves (and before Skynet takes over), our thinking and cognitive abilities would expand quicker than we can imagine. At first, it would be a "hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking", but as we shift into the 2040s, most of our thinking will be done off-brain, and would thus be non-biological. Think, "OK Google, can I afford to buy pizza tonight" or "OK Google, what is 5.2 million divided by 2.39".

Continue reading 'Google engineer says humans will be hybrids by 2030 thanks to nanotech' (full post)

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