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The Fujisoft-organized annual robot sumo competition occurred over the weekend, and featured remote-controlled and autonomous robotic sumo bots throwing down. The event hosted in Tokyo featured teams from 10 different countries, and continually grows in popularity.
The Mirai Robo Koken team from a Japanese high school won the radio-controlled portion of the event, which featured 10 different robots. Operators used remote controls to help guide their respective robots in the sumo tournament.
The Robotu Skola team from Latvia capturing the autonomous tournament - featuring 31 different robotic sumo models. Autonomous sumo robots were required to use pre-programmed movements to help find rival robots and push them out of a small ring.
Interest in drones continues to transition from military and government purposes towards commercial and private use, and there is great potential in potential life-saving drones. Alec Momont from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands showed off a prototype drone that swiftly delivers a defibrillator to a person suffering a heart attack.
The ambulance drone can reach a location based on GPS from a mobile phone within 4.6 square miles in just one minute, with emergency personnel speaking to people on the scene using audio and video. Of course, there will be safety concerns, even with first responders on the way - as you're never really sure who will be using the defibrillator - but this type of technology can be fine-tuned - and shows great potential.
DARPA has developed something that is quite amazing: a self-guided, mid-flight-changing .50 cal projectile. This allows snipers to hide behind cover, and still hit their target with accuracy - even if they move.
The project comes from DARPA's "Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance" (EXACTO), with the team having the job of "developing more accurate military artillery that will enable greater firing range, minimize the time required to engage with targets, and also help reduce missed shots that can give away the troops' location".
A few months ago now, DARPA tested the .50 cal bullet at a distance of 1.2 miles, with the projectile using optical sensors on its nose to pull in-flight information. It also featured an internal electronic system that controls the fins on the projectile, which fling out in-flight, as they can't be seen in EXACTO photos. The video above shows a live testing of DARPA's impressive guided bullet, with the rifle intentionally aimed to the right of the target. The video shows that the projectile finds its target, changes its flight path on-the-fly, and then connects. DARPA's EXACTO team recently conduced the first successful live-fire tests using the in-flight guidance of .50-caliber bullets, which means it could be close to being used by snipers in the field.
Japanese company Mamiya-OP plans to begin selling a pricey robotic lawn mower that will be able to autonomously take care of golf courses. Mamiya-OP partnered with Jacobsen, a company that manufacturers golf course lawn mowing products, to create the "Robot Mower for Five Successive Fairways."
Mamiya-OP said customers could be able to pay off purchasing one unit within three years, as the robot mower is able to travel up to 6 m.p.h. along a preset route. Utilizing a GPS, three-axis gyroscope and encoder, the robot mower has sensors so it is able to spot - and avoid - humans and other obstacles on the course.
The lawn mower utilizes a custom autonomous driving system and each unit will cost between $70,000 and $90,000.
The US Navy is progressing in its Silent NEMO Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC), with the GhostSwimmer unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), an underwater craft that is 5-feet in length and weighs almost 100 pounds. Silent Nemo can operate in water as shallow as 10 inches down to depths of 300-feet, providing additional low-visibility intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to keep ships safe - and to conduct hull inspections.
Silent Nemo is able to mimic the same swim motion as a regular fish, oscillating its tail back and forth, according to developers.
"GhostSwimmer will allow the Navy to have success on more types of missions, while keeping divers and sailors safe," said Michael Rufo, Boston Engineering director of the Advanced Systems Group program. "The unit is a combination of unmanned systems engineering and unique propulsion and control capabilities."
The US Army is building a custom airport for its Gray Eagle and Shadow drones at Fort Bliss, located in Texas. The location will include a 50,000 square-foot hangar, 1,000-ft. runway for Shadow aircraft, and a 5,000-ft. runway for Gray Eagle drones. The Army Corps of Engineers issued a $33-million-dollar contract to a private contractor, which will also build a maintenance facility and a hazardous waste disposal facility.
In addition to surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the Gray Eagle can carry up to four hellfire missiles while traveling faster and at higher altitude than the Predator. However, it has a window of just 25-hours of flight time, 15 hours shorter than the Predator.
The Army hopes to use its custom facility to research and better understand how to improve its drones.
NASA hopes the International Space Station (ISS) will have better Internet courtesy and communications access courtesy of the laser-based Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) instrument. A SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle delivered OPALS to the ISS in April, and has successfully completed four months of testing - with a focus on minimizing atmospheric turbulence that leads to increased data loss.
OPALS uses four individual lasers to send a beam down to the JPL's Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory ground station in California. The ground station is able to send four lasers and deliver a payload, and is working on daytime testing.
"OPALS has shown that space-to-ground laser communications transmissions are practical and repeatable," said Matthew Abrahamson, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory OPALS mission manager, in a statement published by Space.com. "As a bonus, OPALS has collected an enormous amount of data to advance the science of sending lasers through the atmosphere. We look forward to continuing our testing of this technology, which sends information to and from space faster than with radio signals."
Researchers from Florida State University and the Stevens Institute of Technology teamed up for a six-month study that used earbuds equipped with an in-line microphone and an Apple iPhone. Participants' breathing habits could be accurately recorded within half a breath per minute while using the smartphone and earbuds next to the bed, even when compared to a chest-worn respiration monitor.
A custom smartphone app will be released sometime next year. Using the app would be an accurate and significantly cheaper method to track quality of sleep - and could help identify sleep apnea and other potential health problems. Researchers will present their paper during the IEEE Infocom conference next April.
However, it could be difficult to accurately measure respiratory signals if there is more than one person sleeping in the bed, according to Andrew Campbell, a co-director of the Dartmouth Networking and Ubiquitous Systems Laboratory.
The House of Representatives issued the "Cromnibus" bill that will give NASA an $18 billion budget in 2015, a 2 percent increase than 2014, while also giving NASA more than $500 million it requested. Pres. Obama's original $17.5 billion budget request asked for $4.79 billion to be used for the Science Mission Directorate, $1.28 billion to planetary sciences research - the Science Mission Directorate will receive $5.24 billion and $1.44 billion towards planetary sciences.
The additional budget should be welcome news for the US space agency, which has fallen short of federal budget targets in past years. This is good news for NASA, which must spend at least $100 million of the budget to launch a robot probe to Jupiter's icy moon of Europa.
"They added nearly $300 million to the entire science mission directorate," said Casey Dreier, Planetary Society advocacy director, in a statement to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). "No one paid the price for restoration of the cuts to planetary science. That's a big deal."
The Japanese absolutely love robotics, and the multi-billion-dollar industry is recovering with a strong boost by the country's government. Described as a "pillar" of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's effort to help Japan's struggling economy rebuild. Humanoids can be used in factories, retail stores, offices, retirement homes, and a wide variety of locations to interact with customers, residents and visitors.
"The adoption of robots tailored to the individual needs of each workplace is without a doubt a major trump card that will drive our local economies," Abe recently said, while speaking at the Robot Revolution Realization Council.
Longtime Japanese electronics and technology companies have struggled to keep up with rivals in the United States, China and Korea - and investing in robotics could help the country standout against other rivals.