Archives for March 2010

Lunar Roving Russian Robot Found After 37 Years

A Russian robot rover has been photographed from lunar orbit after 37 years.  The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) imaged the area on one of its orbits of the Moon.  Then, Phil Stooke, a researcher from The University of Western Ontario, solved a 37-year-old space mystery using lunar images released yesterday by NASA and maps from his own atlas of the moon.  Lunokhod 2 stands 4 ft 5 in high and is about 5 ft 7 in long and 4 ft 11 in wide, and it shows up clearly in the overhead photo.  For mobility, it used 8 independently powered wheels.

As explained on the Wikipedia site, “Lunokhod 2 was equipped with three television cameras, one mounted high on the rover for navigation, which could return high resolution images.  These images were used by a five-man team of controllers on Earth who sent driving commands to the rover in real time. Power was supplied by a solar panel on the inside of a round hinged lid which covered the instrument bay, which would charge the batteries when opened. A polonium-210 radioisotope heater unit was used to keep the rover warm during the long lunar nights.  After landing, the Lunokhod 2 took TV images of the surrounding area, then rolled down a ramp to the surface at 01:14 UT on January 16 and took pictures of the Luna 21 lander and landing site, driving for 30 meters. After a period of charging up its batteries, it took more pictures of the site and the lander, and then set off to explore the moon.

The rover would run during the lunar day, stopping occasionally to recharge its batteries with the solar panels. At night the rover hibernated until the next sunrise, heated by the radioactive source.”

This rugged robot still holds the record for distance driven on another planetary body.  It covered about 23 miles on its lunar trek.  By comparison, the Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, has traveled just over 12 miles. 

It is easy to forget sometimes that robots have been exploring space for decades, and although today’s machines are more capable in some ways, the explorer robots of the past accomplished some amazing feats considering the technology of the times.  You can read the complete story at the site linked to at the bottom of the page.  You can also click on the photo below for the article.

 LRO_Lunokhod_2

Photo Credit:  NASA

A Canadian researcher has helped solve a 37-year-old space mystery using lunar images released by NASA and maps from an atlas of the moon.

Russian lunar rover found: 37-year-old space mystery solved
(author unknown)
Wed, 17 Mar 2010 18:00:00 GMT

Robot Space Shuttle to Aim for Space Next

The X-37 is the designation for a robotic shuttle craft built to demonstrate reusable technologies for future spacecraft and perform on-orbit operations in the near term.  Starting as a NASA project and later taken over by the Air Force, this winged robot is slated to fly into space on April 19, 2010.  It has faced many delays in getting to this point, but it now appears ready to launch to orbit.  After insertion into its orbit by an Atlas V rocket, it may stay up for several months.  In fact, it is designed to remain in space for up to 9 months to accomplish its objectives.  And its objectives are a closely guarded secret by the Air Force.

Read more about this experimental robotic space shuttle in the article linked to below.

Robot Space Shuttle

Photo Credit:  The Register

Get more from this author Long-delayed plans by the US to deploy a small robot space shuttle appear now to be approaching fruition,

Robot mini space shuttle is go for April, says US air force
Register
Mon, 15 Mar 2010 13:07:18 GMT

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

Robot Butler Serves Up Snacks: Is This a Problem?

A robot butler can't be a bad thing, can it?  After all, we would all like to be waited on by a servant, especially one that can be shut down if it gives you any problems. So, just make sure that it can be turned off!  This is not a new robot, in fact the machine made its debut at Carnegie Mellon University back in September of 2009.  You can go back and look at the story done here on RobotNext about this snackbot.   Also, follow the links below to see the article from the guardian.co.uk by Charles Arthur.

       snackbot

    Credit:  Guardian.co.uk|The Observer

"The robot butler has a long and frequently chequered history. From    Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet (who could bring a nicely shaken  martini) through to HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey (which served  food via a hatch, then later killed you), the idea that there must be a  better method of getting refreshments handed out than making a person  push a trolley is one that just won't go away."

via www.guardian.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