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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 1

SpaceX will be able to launch US national security payloads into orbit

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will now be able to launch satellites and other national security payload for the US government, after receiving US Air Force certification.

 

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The certification could help break a stranglehold on the United Launch Alliance, a nine-year-old space venture created by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. SpaceX is muscling its way into conducting launches for NASA and Department of Defense, so it will be interesting to see how ULA responds in the future.

 

"SpaceX's emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade," said Deborah Lee James, Air Force Secretary, in a statement. "Ultimately, leverage of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military's resiliency."

Continue reading 'SpaceX will be able to launch US national security payloads into orbit' (full post)

Robots in the cockpit? Apparently, don't rule it out

New aircraft already rely on sophisticated computers, and government agencies are openly discussing robots and remote operators flying commercial aircraft. Commercial aviation flies millions of passengers around the world each year and already utilizes computer autopilots - and there is greater discussion to how much human interaction is needed to fly commercial aircraft.

 

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"The industry is starting to come out and say we are willing to put our R&D money into that," said Parimal Kopardekar, manager of the autonomous operations project at the NASA Ames Research Center, in a statement to the New York Times.

 

Pilots currently only spend minutes actually piloting planes, with pilots of Boeing 777s saying they operate the aircraft for about seven minutes - and pilots of Airbus planes spending less than four minutes piloting their aircraft.

Continue reading 'Robots in the cockpit? Apparently, don't rule it out' (full post)

Researchers teaching robots to have better dexterity and speed

Researchers from UC Berkeley have found a way to help robots obtain better motor tasks using a trial and error process, in a similar manner to how humans learn. The reinforcement learning technique is possible because of software algorithms that give robots a new ability to learn from previous mistakes.

 

 

The robots complete different tasks, such as screwing a cap on a water bottle, putting a clothes hanger on a rack, and other tasks without the need of pre-programmed details. Deep learning will continue to be a major research focus in artificial intelligence (AI) development, as the Willow Garage Personal Robot 2 used at UC Berkeley continues perfecting its motor tasks.

 

"It used to take hours on up to months of careful programming to give a robot the hand-eye coordination necessary to do a task," said Gary Bradski, founder of OpenCV, which provides machine vision software, in a statement published by the New York Times. "This new work enables robots to just learn the task by doing it."

Continue reading 'Researchers teaching robots to have better dexterity and speed' (full post)

Telemarketers and refs, lookout... robots coming for your jobs

Whether we want it or not, the transition from human workers to robots is expected to cause mayhem among a number of different industries.

 

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The following industries are expected to face the highest likelihood of being replaced, according to a 2013 study from Oxford University - telemarketers (99 percent), umpires and referees (98.3 percent), cooks (96.3 percent), manicurists and pedicurists (94.5 percent), and roofers (89.7 percent).

 

It seems careers that require a mix of creativity, negotiation skill and strong communication will be safer than other positions - and there are plenty of concerns about how acceptable humans will be to jobs being carried out by robots.

Continue reading 'Telemarketers and refs, lookout... robots coming for your jobs' (full post)

NASA discovers a new galaxy which is as bright as 300 trillion suns

NASA has just found a new galaxy that is shining as brightly as, wait for it... 300 trillion suns. That's a lot of zeroes: 300,000,000,000,000 suns. One sun is bright, but 300 trillion? Ugh, I need some new sunglasses.

 

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The discovery has been so large for NASA that they've had to create a new classification for it, and the 19 other galaxies they discovered. These new galaxies are extremely luminous infrared galaxies, or ELIRGs for short. NASA has said that the new ELIRGs are "the most luminous galaxy found to date". NASA scientists spotted the ELIRGs with their Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope.

 

The ELIRGs that NASA found are located 12.5 billion light years away, which is why it's so damn bright. NASA JPL scientist Chao-Wei Tsai says that it "may be from the main growth spurt of the galaxy's black hole".

Continue reading 'NASA discovers a new galaxy which is as bright as 300 trillion suns' (full post)

Engineers create revolutionary mind-controlled prosthetic limbs

Engineers from the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University have created the Modular Prosthetic Limbs, a robotic arm that can be controlled by the human brain.

 

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The lab-created prosthetic promises a lifelike form factor and appearance, with human-like strength and dexterity for the wearer. The M.P.L. has 26 joints and more than 100 sensors that are controlled using brain signals that are able to control the prosthetic - with the design continually pushing forward.

 

"We've designed a Maserati here, but what most people will want is a good Toyota," said Mike McLoughlin, chief engineer of research and exploratory development for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, in a statement published by the New York Times. "The M.P.L. was intentionally designed to be as sophisticated as we could make it so that you could really push the state of the art, but ultimately for commercializing it, it needs to be a lower cost design."

Is it possible robots will always need humans to help them function?

Even though there is new concern that artificial intelligence may lead to robots taking over, it's plausible to think that robots will always need humans.

 

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"Pilots, physicians and other professionals routinely navigate unexpected dangers with great aplomb but little credit," states a recent editorial published by he New York Times. "Even in our daily routines, we perform feats of perception and skill that lie beyond the capacity of the sharpest computers."

 

While that is true, some have wondered if that will begin to change when AI is able to learn - and adapt - to daily life. No one is really sure what is lies ahead for mankind and robotics, however, humans can work to ensure there are proper boundaries in place that robots must adhere to.

Continue reading 'Is it possible robots will always need humans to help them function?' (full post)

US military working on mini-drone gliders to help spy on the enemy

US Navy scientists have created a miniature glider drone, dubbed the Cicada, which is designed for its simplistic and disposable functionality. The small drone doesn't have an engine and features just 10 moving parts and costs around $1,000 - and could drop in price down to $250 each - seems like nothing more than a circuit board attached to a paper airplane.

 

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After being dropped from a drone, airplane or other form of aircraft, the Cicada drones can be assigned GPS coordinates. During a live test three years ago, the drones were launched from almost 60,000 feet and successfully landed less than 15 feet of their intended target.

 

The drones could be equipped with microphones and other tools, opening the door to multiple possible missions.

Continue reading 'US military working on mini-drone gliders to help spy on the enemy' (full post)

Swiss researchers develop pocket-sized, origami-inspired drone

Researchers are working on a new drone that is able to automatically unfold itself and quickly go airborne, with the compact and foldable drone ideally suited for emergency first response. The custom quadcopter drone is able to launch in less than one second, and is easily transportable since it's the size of the palm of your hand.

 

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The current prototype has to be folded up by hand - taking less than 10 seconds with a skilled operator - but an auto-fold feature is in development. The drone weighs just 1.3 ounces, so first responders at a natural disaster site could launch a number of these small aircraft to help survey a site.

 

"You can take it out of the box, switch on the motor, and it's ready to fly," said Dr. Stefano Mintchev, professor of robotics at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in a statement to LiveScience.

Worries of possible lethal use from emergency robots made for military

There are a growing number of companies in the United States fighting for lucrative government contracts focused on disaster recovery. The Pentagon is hosting a multi-million-dollar competition that will have robots compete in a rigorous series of tests to gauge how developed this technology is at its current level.

 

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"We don't know what the next disaster will be, but we know we have to develop the technology to help us address these kinds of disasters," said Gill Pratt, program manager at DARPA, when speaking with reporters.

 

Even though DARPA - and governments across the world - are developing robots that could be deployed for disaster recovery, there is some concern that autonomous robots could be used for rather devious purposes.

Continue reading 'Worries of possible lethal use from emergency robots made for military' (full post)

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