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NASA's Curiosity rover has been picking its way over the rocks and sand of Mars for a long time now on its way to the ultimate goal of reaching Mount Sharp in the center of Gale Crater. Curiosity was taking a path through what has been dubbed Hidden Valley, which is a sandy area about the length of a football field.
However, Curiosity ran into a problem with its chosen path recently when the rover and its controllers discovered that the sand in Hidden Valley was much slipperier than expected. NASA scientists are now assessing alternative routes that would take Curiosity north of the valley and hopefully find more traction for the 1-ton rover.
"We need to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the wheels and Martian sand ripples, and Hidden Valley is not a good location for experimenting," Curiosity project manager Jim Erickson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California said in a statement.
The medical threat from shock waves related to improvised explosive device (IED) blasts and other explosions pose a significant threat to military personnel. Advancements in synthetic human physiology research is helping provide a glimpse of realistic blast testing, with artificial cranial bones focused on skulls of the 20- and 30-year old soldiers deployed.
The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) wants to create a uniform response that can be used to develop better helmets and technology to reduce the impact of blast waves and blunt impact related to explosions.
"The mechanical properties of the human skull challenge with age and depend on the health of the individual," said Dr. Thomas Plaisted, ARL Materials and Manufacturing Science Division materials engineer. "Donor skulls that may be available for testing would typically come from older people, and the properties of those skulls can be highly variable and may not have the same response as the average skull of the Army Soldier population."
Self-driving trucks could be arriving in Britain by 2015, it has been suggested, although some critics suggest the way the trials have been proposed might not be the safest thing for the UK's roads.
A report in the Sunday Times claimed politicians in the UK had taken trips to Sweden to see how the autonomous systems work, and that tests are to follow in 2015. The Department for Transport was quick to say that it has not made an official decision on whether or not to trial the technology, and it asserted that road safety is of "paramount importance".
The idea is a system that can largely commandeer a vehicle by itself - but one that will retain a driver in the cab for safety reasons, in case anything goes wrong. A fleet would be directed by the driver at the head of the convoy, and each truck behind would communicate by wi-fi, as well as being monitored with infrared cameras and motion detection sensors.
If you find space to be an interesting place and have ever wondered what the surface of a comet actually looked like, the European Space Agency (ESA) has shared some images from the Rosetta spacecraft. The images are of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta after arriving at its target only about a week ago.
The ESA even generated a 3D image that can be viewed with old-school red and blue 3D glasses. The photos were taken when the spacecraft was about 65 miles away from the comet.
These photos are very interesting and show lots of craters, boulders, and other surface features. Some of the most interesting surface features seen in the photos are several very smooth areas. Rosetta will continue its triangular orbit around the comet for the next few weeks as it gets ready to send its lander to the surface of the comet.
A group of researchers from a university in British Columbia came up with a very odd, yet very cool project called hitchBOT. The idea was to make a robot of sorts, put it on the side of the road, and see if it could hitch a ride across the country. This isn't the sort of bot that can't walk on its own, but it is computerized enough to interact with the people who help it.
So far, the bot has hitched numerous rides and ended up in some interesting places. It has hung out with folks on summer vacation, a rock band, and wound up at a wedding. During the wedding hitchBOT reportedly interrupted the groom's thank you for coming speech to say it likes to make friends.
HitchBOT began its cross-country trip on July 27 after being left on the side of the road near the Halifax airport. The bot has been taking photos and sharing them online as well as tweeting during its trip. The bot is expected to end its trip at the Victoria Open Space Gallery next week.
Researchers around the world are working on robotics to make them able to operate on their own and perform complex tasks. In the US, a group of engineers has designed a swarm of 1000 tiny robots that are able to shuffle their way into specific shapes when told to. Each of the bots is given an image of the shape controllers want and then they work together to make the shape.
It's not a fast process; it reportedly takes about 12 hours for the bots to take the desired shape. This is the largest swarm of robots to ever be used in a study of this type. Researchers from the group behind the project say that each of the bots is identical and have the exact same program.
The throng of robots is inspired by cells that form organs or ants that are able to build bridges to span water. The team hopes that knowledge gleaned from this study will help develop self-assembling tools and structures in the future. Each of the little bots is 3cm across and said to be about the size of a sushi roll and each has three straight legs. Commands are given using an infrared light overhead and a sensor on the robots.
Michael J Fox's charity, the Michael J Fox foundation, has partnered with Intel to examine how wearable technology can be of benefit to people with Parkinson's disease.
Michael J Fox founded the charity after he was diagnosed with the disease. Its cause is not known and there is no cure, however, the symptoms, such as shaking and trouble with co-ordination, can be treated to a degree. The wearable tech will be used to unearth more data, for example, by recording the movements of patients and volunteers. An accompanying smartphone will upload this data to an Intel system, which will then dedicate data scientists to the project.
Ex Intel boss Andy Grove has acted as adviser to the foundation since he was also diagnosed with the disease. Chief executive of the foundation, Todd Sherer, said, according to the BBC: "This opportunity really will allow us the chance to uncover novel breakthroughs in Parkinson's disease by truly understanding how people are living with the disease today, how are they responding to treatments, what are their unmet needs."
The Aloft Hotel has teamed up with robotics specialist Savioke to bring its "Botlr" ALO to its Silicon Valley location later this month. The robot stands almost 3-feet tall and is decked out in a vinyl-collared butler uniform, and was originally inspired by R2D2 in "Star Wars."
The first ALO will begin working at Aloft Cupertino on August 20, with the addition of other Botlrs throughout the rest of the year.
"We are thrilled to introduce our robot to the world today through our relationship with Aloft Hotels," said Steve Cousins, Savioke CEO, in a statement. "In our early testing, all of us at Savioke have seen the look of delight on those guests who receive a room delivery from a robot. We've also seen the front desk get busy at times, and expect Botlr will be especially helpful at those times, freeing up human talent to interact with guests on a personal level."
Submarines aren't unusual today, just about every military in the world operates them as do a number of private companies in the ocean exploration realm. During the civil war 150 years ago a sub was put into service by the Confederate army in its attempt to win the civil war.
The sub is called the H.L. Hunley and its remains are currently being cleaned so that scientists can study them to determine what led to the sub sinking. Scientists are removing debris and rust from the hull of the sub, which was the first sub to sink an enemy ship in history.
The sub was powered by a hand cranked drive system and by removing the debris from the hull; it will be visible for the first time in 150 years. The sub sunk a Union blockade ship called the USS Housatonic in 1864. Damage to the hull is believed to be the reason why the sub sank. When the sub was found in 1995, the remains of the crew were still inside.
I'm sure many people out there have imagined having a robot that could bring them stuff when they want it like food or drinks. A hotel in California called Aloft Hotel has started to roll out robotic butlers that can bring things to your room for you. These robot butlers are called Botlr and perhaps the best part for hotel visitors is that all the Botlr wants for a tip is a tweet.
Botlr will bring things to your room like toothpaste, towels, and just about anything else that a person would normally bring you. Botlr will go into use for the first time on August 20 at the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, California.
The bot will be named A.L.O. and will even wear a butler uniform and nametag. A compartment on top of the robot is where items are stored for delivery. When the robot arrives at your door, the phone in the room will ring. Botlr is the product of a company called Savioki, which is backed by Google Ventures.