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Researchers are looking for new methods to make robots more autonomous, as NASA launches missions on distant planets and moons. Communication between ground operators and robots would take hours even at the speed of light, so robots need to be fairly autonomous. Researchers want robots to be able to identify and avoid danger, while figuring out where to travel on their own.
The Red planet of Mars pushes the boundaries of how humans are able to control robots, and anything further presents more logistical problems. It would be ideal for robots to be able to accurately detect the physical environment and analyze unique points that could be further studied by researchers.
"The amount of data is a problem. You can't be streaming HD video from Mars all the time, live, down to Earth," said Yogesh Girdhar, postdoctoral scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in a statement published by Space.com. "The same thing happens underwater. There are no radio waves. Because of salt water, you can only use an acoustic modem."
People heading to Austin for South by Southwest are urged to have fun, but drone flights have been banned over the festival. The decision was made after event organizers spoke with drone experts, user groups, municipal authorities and aviation safety experts, according to a press release by SXSW.
The event kicks off today and runs through March 22, with an interactive festival, film and music venues planned for the popular event.
"While SXSW may make exceptions to this policy if the drones are used within certain trade show areas where safety measures, such as tethering to the ground are implemented, the airwaves and/or frequency spectrums generally used in the remote control of drones are too congested during the SXSW event to ensure operation safe from interference," according to the SXSW press release.
Google has reportedly reached a milestone in its artificial intelligence research, showing off an algorithm that could beat a human being playing Atari video games. Not only playing it, but it was learning from the experience, just as we would, according to a paper published by Nature last week.
Demis Hassabis, one of the authors from the paper said: "We can go all the way from pixels to actions as we call it and actually it can work on a challenging task that even humans find difficult. We know now we're on the first rung of the ladder and it's a baby step, but I think it's an important one". The team started their work at DeepMind, which is the London-based start up that Google acquired back in January 2014. When they joined Google, they began looking at ways of baking their intelligence into Google products.
The researchers then began working with Atari games, which had more complicated 3D environments, which Hassabis says the algorithm would be able to beat those games within the next five years. Hassabis added: "Ultimately the idea is that if this algorithm can race a car in a racing game then also essentially with a few extra tweaks it should be able to drive a real car. But that's again, even further away than that".
Earlier in the week, the US Secret Service said it will conduct drone exercises near the White House and throughout the Washington, D.C. area. The tests are expected over the next few weeks, but times, dates and locations for the exercises weren't made available.
Ironically, it's a decision that comes weeks after a drunk federal employee crashed his drone on White House property. Although it was ultimately a harmless incident, it revealed a potential threat with more drones taking to the skies.
The Secret Service didn't offer very many details and only offered this statement:
"The United States Secret Service, in conjunction with other inter-agency partners, will conduct a series of exercises involving unmanned aircraft systems, in the coming days and weeks.
Demis Hassabis is an artificial intelligence expert and founder of the now Google-owned DeepMind Technologies - so he has a unique insight into AI research.
Hassabis and his team have developed a custom algorithm giving AI the ability to learn in a similar fashion to humans - a groundbreaking notion that will give some people greater fear of AI one day taking over. Even so, Hassabis believes it will be quite some time before humans have to worry about their own wellbeing due to AI:
"We're many, many decades away from anything, any kind of technology that we need to worry about," said Hassabis, speaking during a recent news conference. "But it's good to start the conversation now and be aware of as with any new powerful technology it can be used for good or bad."
Economists are unsure what to make of robots invading the workforce, with legitimate arguments offered by both sides regarding potential long-term consequences.
The US National Bureau of Economic Research published a report that found as robots are able to continue efficient performance in the workplace, developers are going to eventually cannibalize their own jobs. However, robots still cannot match the precision of humans in many workplace aspects, so it will likely take future hardware and software developments before most jobs are at risk.
"When smart machines replace people, they eventually bite the hands of those that finance them," according to the report. "The long run in such cases is no techno-utopia."
The use of drones and robotics will be more prevalent in future warfare, providing a great technological edge to a few leading nations. The US and UK might be most recognized as drone leaders, but there are almost 90 different countries using military robotics.
When the US began military operations in Iraq more than 10 years ago, there were only a small number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) available. However, there are now more than 7,000 drones, including aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned ships and other sea-based craft - and the US military wants to purchase even more options.
The use of drones also allows for military strikes against targets too dangerous or remote for fighter pilots and ground troops. Faster development of artificial intelligence has some experts worried if robotics and drones may become too smart for mankind's good.
The Communication Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) documented a French language cyberespionage piece of malware. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked the CSEC documents, which were published by the Le Monde French publication and German Der Spiegel newspaper.
The sophisticated Babar malware could record and transfer keystrokes and monitor data and audio conversations - it was a well-made, complex piece of software, according to cybersecurity experts. The Remote Access Tool (RAT) was the second piece of software tied to the Snowglobe spyware campaign.
"Babar is a highly developed spyware program that could only have been manufactured by very well-trained developers," said Eddy Willems, security evangelist at G DATA Software AG. "Babar is designed to work specifically in networks belonging to companies, authorities, organizations and research institutes and to steal sensitive data from them. As a result, audio conversations such as Skype chats, for example, can be recorded. Even a targeted attack on individual seems conceivable. A mass distribution of such malware, however, is very unlikely."
American Unmanned Systems wants to see its amphibious GuardBot used for surveillance missions by the US military, with the unique robot able to travel across land and water. The GuardBot can travel up to 20 miles per hour along the beach and cross water at speeds up to 4 mph, according to American Unmanned Systems.
The unique robotic ball can vary in sizes, from 10cm up to 9 feet, controllable by one operator or programmable via GPS. The GuardBot was created for non-intrusive surveillance and is extremely quiet as built-in cameras and sensors provide feedback from inside the sealed sphere physical casing. The team is looking to develop software supporting geographic information system data to increase autonomous activity.
American Unmanned Systems has a cooperative research development agreement (CRADA) with the US Navy, so they are able to use government research labs and resources to help develop the GuardBot. It was first presented to the military at Marine Corps Base Quantico in 2012, traveling through a volleyball pit - and was shown again in 2014 at the Naval Amphibious Base, deploying and returning to a naval craft.
The Ukrainian military wants to use drones in its intensifying military battle against pro-Russian separatists, but has not received much support from NATO countries. Poland will help provide FlyEye mini-UAVs, and current efforts underway rely on private groups to help try to fill the void.
The Ukrainian government has asked foreign governments for access to drones, but hasn't found many willing participants. The Chicago Automaidan, a pro-Ukrainian group, is now sending Phantom 2 drones for the Ukrainian military to use - which could be used to spy on pro-Russian rebels or aid Ukrainian checkpoints.
"Members of the military unit 3002 Ukraine Lviv National Guard would like to thank Chicago Automaidan," as the group continues to supply drones and other military equipment. "We are very grateful to Ukrainians from around the world who are doing everything for our victory."