NASA Plans for Space Robotics Team

Robonaut 2 and Robonaut 2

Photo Credit:  Courtesy NASA

So, imagine a team of robots – all kinds of robots – some with wheels, some bipedal, some that fly.  Now imagine those robots working as partners with astronauts on some future space mission.  This may be on an asteroid or maybe even Mars. 

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) already work with robots, mostly in the form of robotic arms, to accomplish their tasks, so this in not a far-fetched concept.  Robonaut 2, shown in the photo above, will soon fly on the ISS to demonstrate that  NASA-developed space robots  can work closely with their human team members in space exploration.

In this story from Computerworld, written by Sharon Gaudin, robots are seen as full partners in space exploration.  What do you think of this?  Will humans need robotic companions on space missions?  This seems like a good bet since robots already play an essential role in current space activities.  Read the story at the link below.

That's the image that a lot of the U.S. space agency's engineers have in mind as they work on the new robotic rovers, said Terry Fong, director of NASA's intelligent robotics group. In comparison, the Mars rovers on the Red Planet have been working alone for years.

"We're working on a new use of these robots — robots to support human exploration," Fong told Computerworld this week. "NASA is now thinking, 'How do you go about sending humans to the moon or Mars or elsewhere? How can you use the combination of humans and robots to do exploration better?' I think it's a really, really fundamentally different approach."

NASA official outlines plan for next-generation space robots – Computerworld

Underwater Robots Work in Cold, Dark to Stop Oil Spill

In a desperate effort to stop the massive oil leak occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, robots are attempting to seal off the well spewing the crude.  These machines are controlled from the surface by operators trained to operate them in the darkness over 5,000 feet below sea level.  Robots once again are showing that they have an important role to play in areas where it is impossible for humans to operate outside of specially designed vehicles.  If the robots cannot turn off the leaks, then it could be months before the leaks are stopped.  Read the story at the link below. 

“Pilots using jetfighter-like joy sticks and computer screens to guide robots a mile underwater are crucial to BP’s efforts to stop a leaking oil well that’s gushing thousands of barrels a day in the Gulf of Mexico.”

David Wethe on May 4 at Bloomberg.com

Underwater Robots Probe ‘Inner Space’ to Plug Leaking Oil Well – Bloomberg.com

Hawaii Student Robotics Teams Face Oil Spill Problem Similar to One Off US Coast

In a case of simulation imitating life, high school students in Hawai’i are faced with finding solutions to a theoretical oil spill.  The problem eerily mirrors the massive oil spill now occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.  Robots are being used in the attempt to shut off the flow of oil, but so far none have been called in to help in the actual clean-up efforts.  A quick search with Google turned up this post on robots designed to actually clean up spilled oil, but at the time of the article these bots were only a concept.  

Maybe the high school kids have come up with a real working model.  Check out the article below for the details of the competition.  It was scheduled for today, but so far I have found no results online.

What about the idea of using robots for environmental clean up?  Let me know what you think.

"Thirty-one Hawai‘i student robotics teams from across the state will put their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to the test at the 2010 Hawai‘i Regional Botball Tournament Saturday (May 1)."

"This season’s game theme encourages students to research, understand and generate solutions to an environmental disaster. On the simulated competition field, an earthquake has caused an oil pipeline to rupture sending thousands of gallons of oil into the pristine “Lake Capek.” To be successful, teams must apply sorbents to the oil slicks then rescue and clean oil contaminated ducks, release the clean ducks back into the wetlands, and save the frogs trapped on an island all in 120 seconds with two autonomous robots."

Hawaii student robotics teams address simulated environmental disaster | Hawaii247.com | Hawaii 24/7  April 30, 2010

My Top Ten Robotics Blogs

About three weeks ago, blogs.com asked me to submit a top ten robotics list to their site.  So, I agreed to do this because, for RobotNext, I read many other robotics blogs to keep up with the latest news.  Of course, I also considered this a great honor to be asked to do this.  Thanks go out to blogs.com and Wendy Taylor at Six Apart for selecting me to compile this list.

The following are the ones I access frequently for the latest information in the robotics world. It was really difficult to rank these great sites and I would, likely as not, change the order every time I reviewed the list.  Therefore, the blogs are listed in alphabetical order.  They are all useful sources for robotics information.

Top Ten Robotics Blogs

     Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

 Here is a blog about artificial intelligence and robotics.

  http://smart-machines.blogspot.com/

     BotJunkie

"BotJunkie obsessively chronicles Man's inevitable descent into cybernetic slavery. One robot at a time."

  http://www.botjunkie.com/

Bot Thoughts

 "A blog of robotics, electronics, programming and related topics with pictures, code,  circuit diagrams, ideas, thoughts, drawings, sketches."

       http://bot-thoughts.blogspot.com/

    Gizmodo: Robots

Gizmodo: Robots is a subset of the larger Gizmodo family of blogs and has up to date robotics information and great photos. "Gizmodo is a blog about gadgets and technology. Started in 2002, Gizmodo has grown to be Gawker Media's largest blog, bringing in upwards of 100 million page views a month in traffic. We post about a variety of electronics, as well as all sorts of things gadget geeks might enjoy."

      http://gizmodo.com/tag/robots

    Gorobotics.net

This may be the oldest surviving robotics blog and will celebrate its 10th year anniversary this year. It's a blog covering resources for the robotics beginner. GoRobotics.net has articles on robotics projects, resources, books, and links.

     http://www.gorobotics.net/

    Robots.net

This blog comes from a site with a load of information and many other blogs that contribute to the information flow. Robots.net was created by R. Steven Rainwater and Roger Arrick. Together with Jim Brown. Their motto: "All the news that's fit to assimilate."

"A news and discussion site for those interested in robots and robotics. Home of the Robot Competition FAQ and a variety of resource pages."

      http://www.robots.net/

    Robots Dreams

This site has to be one of the most visually entertaining robot weblogs that you will ever visit. Includes "robot news from Japan, exclusive coverage of robot events like ROBO-ONE, Robot Carnival, RoboGames, and reviews for the newest robot products."

 www.robots-dreams.com

   Robotworld

From Tony Dyson of Star Wars fame. The site is billed as "From the man who built R2D2." Covers stories about robots from a unique point of view.

http://robotworld.com/

  

   The NXT STEP – LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT Blog

If you want to know what is happening in the world of LEGO® Robotics, then this is the blog for you. Definitely this is the number one blog in its niche. "NXT STEP Blog brings together news and information related to the LEGO®MINDSTORMS® NXT system." 

       http://thenxtstep.blogspot.com

    Trossen Robotics

"The Trossen Robotics Blog is the place to keep up to date on all the latest product releases and     news in robotics."

       www.trossenrobotics.com

By Imitating Insects, Microbots Demonstrate Hive Behaviors

Robot researchers constantly use nature as a model for new robotic developments. Here is another example of this in these microbots.

In particular, the application to robotics has to do with the idea of swarm behaviors.  Insects such as ants and termites tend to act as a unit.  Even though they are small, when they act together, they can accomplish amazing feats.  Termites build large, complex mounds with intricate tunnels.  Ants can organize large hunting parties and carry out raids against larger insects and sometimes even animals.

Swarm of robots have been developed with up to 90 robots organized into a single-acting, focused unit.  As of now, most of these applications have been in the military area.  Gathering intelligence, locating mines and explosives, and surveillance are three common applications commonly used today in the armed forces.  What will truly be a robotics revolution is when swarm robots are used in the home or personal arena.  Imagine several robots in your house working together to clean the floors, do the laundry, and prepare meals.  This is where the future of personal robots may be headed.

Read the complete story at the links below.

Credit:  New Electronics

"Fifty years ago, predictions for the future always included robots that would, by now, be doing most of our daily domestic chores. While that hasn't happened, robots have had a huge impact on our lives, but in industry rather than the home."

via www.newelectronics.co.uk

MIT Touches the Future with Next Generation Tactile Robotic Skin

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is using an advanced sensor system to develop the next level of robots.  By incorporating Quantum Tunnelling Composite (QTC) technology into a robot's skin, MIT hopes to build a robot that can interact with humans via touch.  QTC, from Peratech Limited, is a new class of electrically conductive material that has been developed to advance the capability of switching and sensing systems.  As the Peratech website states:  "QTC can be tailored to suit different force, pressure, or touch sensing applications – from sensing feather-light or finger operation to heavy pressure applications, and that is why QTC is so perfect for the next tactile robot."

See the related story from Myra Per-Lee at InventorSpot.com to read about the most advanced bionic hand.

QTC Robotics

Image Credit:  Peratech Limited

QTC Pressure Sensing Material

Image Credit:  Peratech Limited

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will create the first robot that will enable a human to interact with it through touch, much as they would another human. Last week, MIT commissioned the British company Peratech to develop its next generation tactile robotic skin to accomplish its goal.

via inventorspot.com

 

Robot Assassins

Robots are being used in a war-like situation, in a country we are not at war with, and controlled by civilians in a spy agency thousands of miles away.  This is the new world of terrorist wars.  At some point, all of this will have to be sorted out ethically.  The entire question of robots as killing machines is one that cause great concern.  On the one hand, these robots are probably saving innocent lives that would be lost in a terrorist attack; but, on the other hand, the robots are killing humans.  Check out the story in the link below.

[A predator drone. For the first time ever, a civilian intelligence agency is manipulating robots from halfway around the world in a program of extrajudicial executions in a country with which Washington is not at war.(AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)]

Credit: AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

"The kohl-eyed Hakimullah Mehsud probably is dead. He was the target for a missile fired last month from an unmanned aircraft hovering over the Afghan-Pakistani border – but launched by an operator in the US.

A predator drone. For the first time ever, a civilian intelligence agency is manipulating robots from halfway around the world in a program of extrajudicial executions in a country with which Washington is not at war."

via www.commondreams.org

Robot From Castrol Can Kick Soccer Balls at 200 km/hr

This is for all FIRST robotics teams looking for ideas to design a kicker for this year’s competition:  Don’t try this one!  It probably won’t pass inspection.  Castrol has built (or in this case, over-built) a  robot to break the record set by a soccer legend.  Not only does it break the record, but it would probably break bones.  The human record by Cristiano Ronaldo is 130 km/hr.  Castrol’s robot blasts the ball at over 200 km/hr.  Watch the video at Engadget and Marca (Spanish) to see the pieces fly when the plywood players get in the way.  You can also read the story at that link or at the link below.

Castrol builds freakishly large robot to kick a soccer ball, break legs of silhouette defenders

Credit:  Engadget and Marca

Soccer players are generally such crybabies that we can understand why you'd want to replace them with robots, and sometimes that's done with great success. We don't think we'll be seeing this latest player on the pitch anytime soon, though. It's something of an exhibition robot, a creation sponsored by Castrol to beat the legendary leg of Cristiano Ronaldo, who can kick the ball at 130km/h.

Continue reading Castrol builds freakishly large robot to kick a soccer ball, break legs of silhouette defenders

Castrol builds freakishly large robot to kick a soccer ball, break legs of silhouette defenders originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 26 Jan 2010 10:46:00 EST.

Castrol builds freakishly large robot to kick a soccer ball, break legs of silhouette defenders
Tim Stevens
Tue, 26 Jan 2010 15:46:00 GMT

Spherical Robots Practice Formation Flying in Space

NASA has this experiment onboard the International Space Space to test the concept of robot flying in formation and performing other manuevers in space. 

The NASA website explains, “Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) are bowling-ball sized spherical satellites.  Three free-flying spheres can fly within the cabin of the Space Station, performing flight formations. Each satellite is self-contained with power, propulsion, computers and navigation equipment. The results are important for satellite servicing, vehicle assembly and formation flying spacecraft configurations.”

It would seem that these little robots could be great assistants for the astronauts.  They could hold cameras, carry tools, or they could provide lighting for work situations.  I don’t know if they are being considered for that work, but they should.  Read the stories at the links below for more information.

179781main_SPHERES12

Photo Credit:  NASA

“MIT has had a set of robots called SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites) on board the International Space Station since May of 2006 to test out algorithms for autonomous navigation and docking maneuvers. Each sphere is about 8″ in diameter and has 18 sides. They gets around with 12 thrusters powered by compressed CO2, while ultrasonic and infrared sensors and a wireless link tell them where they are. SPHERES are able to maneuver precisely enough to dance around in a circle on the ISS; watch as a third robot enters the pattern:

The idea behind SPHERES is that a bunch of small satellites working together is much cheaper, much more efficient, and much more robust than one single large satellite. It’s swarm robotics, up in space.”  From BotJunkie

The following sites provided source materials for this article

BotJunkie

NASA

MIT Spheres

Danger Room

Spherical Robots Dance In Space
Evan Ackerman
Thu, 21 Jan 2010 11:55:49 GMT

Robot Ocean Gliders

Researchers are preparing to send forth a swarm of underwater gliders for a mission to explore the tropical Atlantic.  Information on temperature, salinity, oxygen and chlorophyll content as well as the turbidity of the sea water will be measured and sent back to the scientists at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany. 

As reported on the website at IFM-GEOMAR,  “A very successful mission using a single glider took place between August and October 2009 in the Atlantic Ocean, south of the Cape Verde Islands. The robot carried out measurements along a more than 1000 kilometres long track autonomously, before it was recovered by the German research vessel METEOR. The data collected are accessible online at http://gliderweb.ifm-geomar.de/html/ifm03_depl05_frame.html.”

Now a fleet of these torpedo-like craft will venture out to document the ocean properties in the tropical Atlantic.  Read the entire story from TG Daily at the link below, and then see all other articles on this in the other stories link.

TG Daily

Europe's largest fleet of underwater robot gliders is about to embark on its first research mission in the tropical Atlantic. The gliders, operated by
See all stories on this topic

Robot gliders take to the seas
TG Daily
Fri, 15 Jan 2010 13:39:15 GMT