Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Robot-time

Again on robots:
It's surprising how long it took to get the robots to be useful. I can't understand why something looking so simple if enough money were invested in it, is kind of taking forever to happen. Not that I think the robots are the next level of our evolution, quite the contrary, I see them as a separate beings to evolve. But they are and will be a great tool and the faster we learn to use them, the best for us.
But still, not much progress. I'm trying to paste here some articles I find from time to time on that issue, but they seem to be very fragmented. I fail to see the robot that is really usable.
Recently I stumbled upon (in the physical sense of the word) a puppy robot that was so cute. It could do simple things, had a camera on his head and it was just adorable. And if it wasn't for some weird coincidences, I'd never know it exist and you can buy it if you want to. Below is the video of it. (check the related videos for newer and cooler versions)

As for the today's articles, they are interesting. They show what a good combination a robot and a living thing can make. No matter if the living thing is an animal or a human. Enjoy!

Mongoose-robot duo sniffs out landmines

  • 26 April 2008

See a video of the mongoose and robot pair sniffing our landmines

CAN a partnership between a cheap robot and a carnivore with an exquisite sense of smell aid the hunt for buried landmines?

Robots capable of detecting landmines are expensive, so detection is largely performed by people with metal detectors. However, the process is dangerous, not to mention time-consuming, as workers need to scan every inch of ground and proceed slowly so as not to set off a mine. Time can also be wasted on false alarms, as metal detectors cannot distinguish landmines from other metallic objects.

Now engineer Thrishantha Nanayakkara and colleagues at the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka have come up with an unusual solution: tethering a dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula), which can be trained to sniff out explosives, to a robot. Remotely controlled, the robot leads the mongoose along like a dog on a leash and ensures it scans an area systematically. Whenever the mongoose signals that it smells explosive, the human controller marks the spot on a map.source

check out a pdf article on the issue.
My comment: If you read the pdf, you'd see the coolness of the issue. First, it replaces humans in potentially dangerous environment and second, it's really useful and potentially better than the humans. Isn't it exactly what the technology should give us?

Rescue robots compete to save dolls in distress

Robots compete to save dolls in distress

Robots are competing in Germany this week to traverse a maze that simulates the aftermath of a natural disaster (see video, right).

It is part of the largest warm-up event, the German Open, for the annual RoboCup, held in China this July. The main Robocup event has been running for 11 years and pits teams of soccer robots against each other, with the goal of having a robotic team beat the human world soccer champions at their own game by 2050.

But a sub-competition called RoboCup Rescue may yield useful robots. Held since 2000, it aims to stimulate development of robots to help humans in dangerous situations, like collapsed buildings or after a chemical spill.

Maze mapping

Robots in this year's competition must navigate a complex three-dimensional maze, using their sensing and mapping abilities to sniff out toy dolls that either emit CO2, give off heat, make noise, or move.

Each year Jacoff has slowly ratcheted up the physical complexity of the 150-square-metre maze. It now includes sharply pitched and sloping floors, stairs, pipes, and "step fields" – corridors of fixed, randomly shaped objects that simulate rubble.

He uses the competition to trial new tests, which the US Department of Homeland Security evaluates urban search and rescue robots with.

Searching alone

Robots must pick their way through the maze to find the dolls autonomously, as their developers are not allowed inside the arena or to control their robots remotely.

Teams are scored by how many victims their robots finds, how quickly they navigate the maze, and how accurately they can generate a 3D map of the entire course.

This year’s competition will include a “manipulation challenge” that awards extra points to robots that can deliver handheld radios or water bottles to victims trapped in tight spaces.

Tom Haus, a captain in the Los Angeles, California Fire Department and an urban search and rescue specialist at the US Government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, says autonomous robots still need a lot of improvement before they can aid in search and rescue missions.

"They are still a ways away from having something as mobile as a human that could easily traverse rubble piles," he told New Scientist.

But the laser guidance systems teams have developed for 3D imaging in the RoboCup Rescue competition could be adapted for use by human rescuers much sooner, he adds.

"When you go into a dark, smoke-filled structure as a rescuer and then have to explain the layout to other rescuers, a lot is lost in translation," Haus says. "3D mapping would be a huge benefit."

Haus was one of the search and rescue experts that helped Jacoff develop the RoboCup Rescue maze, and says current scanning and map generation technology is too slow to be of much use for emergency response teams.

But the current time they take – roughly 5-10 minutes to scan a 900m2 area and another 5-10 minutes to stitch the images together – will likely decrease rapidly, Haus says. source

My comment: Another cool technology. It's kind of scary to see how humans always want to make the robots better than themselves, but it also reminds me of the parents who want their children to be better than themselves. That provokes various feelings, since robots are not our children, but machines with potential to grow as independents beings, but anyway, I think we're far from that. Maybe people should try to keep in mind that, for safety reasons, so that we don't see a Terminator in action, but still. I like the robots rescuers. Seeing the disasters in Myanmar and China and even home, it will be great to have some help that won't die or suffer in such environment. I applaud the idea and how those systems will be developed and put on the market rather sooner than later.

And a little warning that I won't comment since I'll make an article at some point: (the moral is these things are already going on, please consider your side in the fight privacy vs. money-it's not about fake virtues, it's about who's the more important-the client or the merchant)

Ad men are homing in on your clicks

  • 24 April 2008

Read a blog post on how users are watching their ISPs.

The magazines you read. The car you would like to own. Travel plans, favourite bands, sporting allegiances. For many of us, all this information and more can be gleaned from a log of the websites we visit. Until recently, the only people with access to the logs were you and your internet service provider (ISP), but gone are the days when ISPs simply piped the internet into your home.

They have woken up to the value of the information and started selling it on to advertisers, who use it to individually tailor ads, often without customers' knowledge. They have also been accused of using the data for more insidious purposes. The result is a gathering privacy storm.

Although search engine and webmail providers Google, Yahoo and Microsoft already make billions of dollars annually by selling targeted advertisements
source

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