Communication Emergence in Robots

Posted on February 24, 2007  Comments (0)

Evolving Robotspeak by Carl Zimmer:

At first the robots just flashed their lights at random. But over time things changed. In the trials with relatives undergoing colony selection, twelve out of the twenty lines began to turn on the blue light when they reached the food. The light attracted the other robots, bringing them quickly to the food. The other eight lines evolved the opposite strategy. They turned blue when they hit the poison, and the other robots responded to the light by heading away.

Two separate communication systems had evolved, each benefiting the entire colony. By communicating, the robots also raised their score by 14%. Here’s a movie showing six of these chit-chatting robots finding a meal.

Related: The original paper, Evolutionary Conditions for the Emergence of Communication in Robots (pdf) by Dario Floreano, Sara Mitri, Stephane Magnenat and Laurent Keller – more robot related posts

Car Elevator (for parking)

Posted on February 24, 2007  Comments (1)

Interesting photos of a NYC parking garage with elevators and the looks of a fancy mall not a garage. Cars are driven onto a palet and then the automated systems take it from there. Parking as a Destination:

The project is the work of AutoMotion Parking Systems, the American subsidiary of Stolzer Parkhaus of Strassburg, Germany. Stolzer Parkhaus has built 28 automated garages in 11 countries since its first, in Kronach, Germany, in 1996. The software and hardware that moves the cars around in the garages were adapted from systems that store materials in warehouses.

“Lasers check that the car is aligned,” Mr. Milstein said, and determines that it is not one of the trucks or S.U.V.’s too big for the garage. The driver locks the car, takes the keys and picks up an electronic card from a nearby machine. A large door closes behind the car; motion detectors ensure that no children or pets are left behind.

Then the pallet holding the car slides below ground level, into two subterranean floors of storage. “It’s simple — park, swipe and leave,” Mr. Milstein said. The returning driver pays — using a credit card at a machine, or handing cash to the human “parking concierge” in a booth. The machinery retrieves the pallet holding the car, which rises to ground level, pointing toward the exit. You unlock the doors and drive away.

“You get your car in under three minutes,” Mr. Milstein promises. “It’s as easy as an A.T.M. or E-ZPass.” Rates will be comparable to conventional parking in Manhattan, he said, about $400 a month. For the driver, the advantages of an automated system go beyond convenience and speed. The car remains untouched and unopened, and with the parking area ostensibly off limits.

Engineering is cool. Related: The High Cost of Free Parking

Wave Energy

Posted on February 23, 2007  Comments (2)

Orkney to get ‘biggest’ wave farm:

Of the Pelamis scheme, he said: “This will be the world’s biggest commercial wave project – significantly bigger than the major Portuguese scheme. “Scotland has the potential to generate a quarter of Europe’s marine energy and kick-starting the sector is vital if we are to create a significant industry based in Scotland and meet our long-term renewables targets.”

Mr Stephen said the industry had the potential to create thousands of jobs and attract millions of pounds of investment. Scottish Power’s director of renewables, Keith Anderson, said: “This is a massive step forward. “It will be a test of the actual devices that will be used commercially and, if successful, should help propel Scotland into the forefront of marine energy throughout the world.”

Related: Ocean Power PlantWind PowerMIT’s Energy ‘Manhattan Project’

NSF Robotics Report

Posted on February 23, 2007  Comments (0)

Cool NSF Robotics Report:

Today, NSF supports mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, computer scientists and other researchers as they develop future generations of intelligent robots. These engineers and computer scientists cooperate with biologists, neuroscientists and psychologists to exploit new knowledge in the study of the brain and behavior. NSF also supports education activities that use robots as a platform for studying mechanics, electronics, software and other topics.

Robots and Biology:

A research team at the University of Illinois led by Fred Delcomyn is one group that has developed a six-legged robot modeled after cockroaches, in this case the American cockroach Periplaneta americana. The researchers hope to mimic the insect’s extraordinary speed and agility by learning and applying the biological structure and principles in the robot’s design.

Insect flight, particularly the airborne maneuvers of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, has been the decade-long research pursuit of Michael Dickinson at Caltech. Dickinson has tethered flies to poles and mimicked them with robots to examine the mechanics of their muscles and the flight control behind the rapid rotation of their wings.

Related: Tour the Carnegie Mellon Robotics LabToyota RobotsOpen Source for LEGO Mindstorms

Savanna Chimpanzees Hunt with Tools

Posted on February 23, 2007  Comments (2)

Savanna Chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus, Hunt with Tools by Jill D. Pruetz and Paco Bertolani:

Broken link removed. See updated post: Chimpanzees Use Spears to Hunt Bush Babies

Although tool use is known to occur in species ranging from naked mole rats to owls, chimpanzees are the most accomplished tool users. The modification and use of tools during hunting, however, is still considered to be a uniquely human trait among primates. Here, we report the first account of habitual tool use during vertebrate hunting by nonhumans. At the Fongoli site in Senegal, we observed ten different chimpanzees use tools to hunt prosimian prey in 22 bouts. This includes immature chimpanzees and females, members of age-sex classes not normally characterized by extensive hunting behavior. Chimpanzees made 26 different tools, and we were able to recover and analyze 12 of these.

Related: Chimps With SpearsSpears are latest discovery in chimps’ toolboxopen access posts

Stimulate Innovation

Posted on February 23, 2007  Comments (0)

What if America Had an Innovation Czar?, good ideas from Keven Kelly:

1. More large prizes, like the Grand Challenger, for specific results. Cheap, effective, popular. The best Mars rover gets sent to Mars, etc.
2. Reform patent law, to reflect reality of current conditions (no submarine patents, etc.).
3. Mandate science fairs in high schools, the secret sauces for American innovation.
4. Open-source scientific literature.

Related: The Effects of Patenting on ScienceInnovation and PatentsScience Fair Directoryopen source science postsCash Awards for Engineering Innovation

Missing laptop found in ET hunt

Posted on February 22, 2007  Comments (0)

Missing laptop found in ET hunt:

Kimberly was more enamored with Melin’s detective work.

“I always knew that a geek would make a great husband,” she said. “He always backed up all my data, but this topped it all. It became like `Mission: Impossible’ for him, looking for hard evidence for the cops to use. … He’s a genius – my hero.”

One of the computers on which Melin installed SETI(at)home is his wife’s laptop, which was stolen from the couple’s Minneapolis home Jan. 1.

Annoyed – and alarmed that someone could delete the screenplays and novels that his wife, Melinda Kimberly, was writing – Melin monitored the SETI(at)home database to see if the stolen laptop would “talk” to the Berkeley servers. Indeed, the laptop checked in three times within a week, and Melin sent the IP addresses to the Minneapolis Police Department.

Scientifically Illiterate

Posted on February 22, 2007  Comments (0)

216 Million Americans Are Scientifically Illiterate:

Let’s start by focusing on the positive. In just 17 years, over 50 million people have been added to the rolls of Americans who can understand a newspaper story about science or technology, according to findings presented last weekend at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

Michigan State University political scientist Jon D. Miller, who conducted the study, attributed some of the increase in science literacy to colleges, many of which in recent years have required that students take at least one science course. Miller says people have also added to their understanding through informal learning: reading articles and watching science reports on television.

Okay, now let’s talk (dare I say rant?) about the 200 million Americans out there who cannot read a simple story in, say, Technology Review or the New York Times science section and understand even the basics of DNA or microchips or global warming.

This level of science illiteracy may explain why over 40 percent of Americans do not believe in evolution and about 20 percent, when asked if the earth orbits the sun or vice versa, say it’s the sun that does the orbiting–placing these people in the same camp as the Inquisition that punished Galileo almost 400 years ago.

Related: Primary Science Education in China and the USAScientific Illiteracy$40 Million for Engineering Education in BostonScience Education in the USA, Japan…

Online Mathematics Textbooks

Posted on February 22, 2007  Comments (1)

Online Mathematics Textbooks:

The writing of textbooks and making them freely available on the web is an idea whose time has arrived. Most college mathematics textbooks attempt to be all things to all people and, as a result, are much too big and expensive. This perhaps made some sense when these books were rather expensive to produce and distribute–but this time has passed.

A few years ago when I first posted a list of mathematics textbooks freely available on line, there existed only a handful of such books. Now there are many.

Including: Calculus by Gilbert Strang – Linear Algebra, Infinite Dimensions, and Maple by James Herod – Euclid’s ElementsInformation Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms by David J. C. MacKay

Antarctic Robo-sub

Posted on February 22, 2007  Comments (0)

Robo-sub takes Antarctic plunge

The submersible, which when not at sea is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, is built to withstand enormous pressure and can dive to depths of 6.5km (four miles). It is equipped with a number of instruments, including cameras, sonars, and sample-collectors that are deployed using its mechanical arms. It is tethered to its “mothership” – on this expedition the RSS James Clark Ross – with a 10km (6 miles) cable.

Scientists manoeuvre the ROV from a control room onboard the ship, and can see the data it produces in real-time. Professor Dowdeswell said: “When you are sat there in the control room, surrounded by monitors, you really feel that you are down at the sea bed with the ROV. You have to pinch yourself to remember that you are not.”

Professor Tyler, like Professor Dowdeswell, deemed the mission a success: “The wealth and diversity of the fauna in this area was incredible. “We knew it would be diverse, but when you think the area we were looking at is totally ice-covered for about six to nine months of the year, this is extremely interesting.”

Related: Robot Heading for Antarctic DiveArctic SharksSea Urchin GenomeThe Brine Lake Beneath the SeaOcean Life

Sudoku Science

Posted on February 22, 2007  Comments (0)

Sudoku Science:

This places Sudoku in an infamously difficult class, called NP-complete, that includes problems of great practical importance, such as scheduling, network routing, and gene sequencing.

“The question of whether there exists an efficient algorithm for solving these problems is now on just about anyone’s list of the Top 10 unsolved problems in science and mathematics in the world,” says Richard Korf, a computer scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles. The challenge is known as P = NP, where, roughly speaking, P stands for tasks that can be solved efficiently, and NP stands for tasks whose solution can be verified efficiently.

The route-finding algorithm that powers car navigation systems, for instance, was first demonstrated on the Sliding Tile puzzle, a child’s toy in which a player tries to move 15 tiles around a grid so that their surfaces form a picture. The same algorithm helps video game characters steer through virtual worlds. “This is an algorithm developed back in 1968 in abstract kinds of things,” says UCLA’s Korf, who himself has explored algorithms for the Rubik’s Cube. “It’s used all the time.”

Related: GPS РCar Navigation MapsDonald Knuth, Computer ScientistPoincar̩ Conjecture Read more