After 30 Earth-days on the surface of the red planet, the Mars rover Curiosity has stretched its neck, zapped its first rock and taken its first strolls. More firsts are still to come in the next couple weeks — like scooping, drilling and baking rocks — but the rover is pretty much ready to go, spending the next two years trying to determine if Mars could ever play host to life.
By Elbert ChuPosted 09.07.2012 at 9:34 am 9 Comments
The first direct brain-machine interface, developed in the 1990s, connected a computer to a rat. By 2003, scientists had mostly replaced rats with nonhuman primates. One of which is Jianhui, an eight-year-old rhesus macaque at Zhejiang University in eastern China.
We’ve seen schemes for remotely-controlled cyborg insects before, including at least one DIY kit for building your own robotically-enhanced cockroach, but researchers at NC State are really moving this discipline forward (literally). A team there has developed an electronic interface that allows them to remotely control cockroaches along fairly precise paths, and they have the video to prove it.
By Paul KvintaPosted 09.06.2012 at 10:35 am 1 Comment
Simon the robot has just learned a new skill: transferring a red block from one hand into a coffee cup held by the other. But like an eager preschooler, he wants to know more. “Can I begin here?” he asks, lifting the block high. Simon has two arms, eight fingers, doe eyes, and a monotone voice. With each question and answer, he is doing what roboticist Andrea Thomaz calls “whittling away the hypothesis space,” or eliminating information that is not essential.
Last we heard from Boston Dynamics' Cheetah, it was coursing along at 18 miles per hour, the fastest a robot had ever run. Now, inspired perhaps by Olympic sprinters, it's cranked that up to a frightening 28.3 MPH.
Fleets of battery-powered robots could zip along monorails installed in solar arrays, tweaking individual panels’ angles so they follow the sun across the sky. This could be cheaper than installing actuators on every solar panel so they track the sun, according to a new robotics startup. Robots can make everything easier!
The San Diego Zoo, one of the best-regarded zoos in the world, has spent several years promoting biomimicry and its potential benefits to the economy and various research fields. Now the zoo is really ramping up its inspired-by-nature kick, launching an entire Centre for Bioinspiration, complete with the British spelling.
New generations of bio-inspired robots will be more than just inspired by nature — they may use actual biological components. Bioengineers at MIT have genetically modified muscle cells to respond to light, which could be used to make easily controllable robot muscles that look and act like the animals on which they're based.
Tropical Storm Isaac is a strange storm. As it steams toward New Orleans today--it's projected to make landfall tomorrow, seven years to the day after Katrina came ashore--it still lacks the kind of coherent organization typical of similar tropical storms. At least, that's what a couple of leading researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are telling PopSci today. But in its strangeness Isaac isn't really a strange case at all. It's tough to tell what these kinds of weather systems are going to do next, and that's a major problem for forecasters attempting to advise those in the storm's (projected) path. That's why NOAA is sending in the robots.
By Page GrossmanPosted 08.28.2012 at 3:21 pm 12 Comments
Since 2009, Utah has used computers to grade essays on a state student-assessment test. And testing companies use essay-evaluating software as one of two graders on graduate-school admissions exams such as the GRE. But how well, really, can a computer grade an essay?