Some parents volunteer at their childrens’ school. Some spend hours on the floor building Lego towers. Others turn their garages into veritable robot factories for their precocious daughters.
OK, I only know of one family that’s done the latter: the Beatty clan in Asheville, NC. Father Robert and his two daughters (Camille, 13, and Genevieve, 11) are self-taught robotics engineers who began tinkering in the garage a few years ago. Now, they’ve built some replicas of NASA’s rovers that are landing in science museums. Continue reading
There’s a cute movie about robots you may not have seen: Robot and Frank is about a (semi) retired jewel thief suffering from mild dementia and the robot companion/helper forced on him by his son. Set in the not-too-distant future, the movie features a number of technologies that are currently in the development phase.
It’s been a year since Curiosity touched down on Mars and began sending information and images back to Earth. The safe landing and subsequent surveying were the results of years of study and development dedicated to a single goal. While Curiosity continues to chug away on the surface of Mars, NASA has plenty of other irons in the fire, and research continues for future exploration missions to other celestial bodies.
The next major mission may well involve a trip to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. SETI, funded by NASA, is developing an aquatic robot to land on the moon, and explore Titan’s liquid methane seas. The Planetary Lake Lander (PLL) is currently in the prototype phase and busy at work mapping Laguna Negra in the Chilean Andes. Continue reading
While Pacific Rim might have made robots big again in popular media, the real work being done on robots isn’t in combat operations. Every time a firefighter loses his life on the job, or people are asked to go into a toxic or nuclear environment to perform cleanup, the same job could be performed by a robot without risk to humans. DARPA is helping advance robotic technology with its DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) with the intent that one day soon robots could perform vital disaster relief work and save more lives.
The DRC began with a virtual robotic challenge (VRC), open to teams from around the world, to prove they could program a robot to perform the kinds of tasks that go hand-in-hand with disasters. These tasks include navigating around hazards, the ability to use tools, remaining mobile and functional, and solid communication with human handlers. A total of 26 teams from eight countries were selected to compete. Continue reading