Robot News

Several notable awards and continued research and development on robots have been announced since mid-February. Here are some robot-related news highlights from the last six weeks (click the headlines to see the full stories):

Turing in style: ONR scientist receives highest award

The Association for Computing Machinery announced the 2011 A.M. Turing Award winner on March 15. The honor, which is considered the highest in the field, went to Dr. Judea Pearl, an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored scientist, for “innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) that have helped bridge the gap between man and machine.”

Dealing with uncertainty is a universal problem, occurring any time we face noisy data and uncertain assumptions about the world. In the early days of AI, dealing with uncertainty was considered a fundamental philosophical hurdle. How can a digital machine, programmed to obey the rules of binary, true-and-false logic, ever cope with the heavy fog of uncertainty that clouds ordinary daily tasks such as crossing a street, parking a car, reading a text or diagnosing diseases?”

— Dr. Judea Pearl, UCLA

Robotic refueling mission begins with space station

NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) began operations on the International Space Station earlier this month, which is considered a significant milestone for technology that services satellites as well as in the use of the space station’s robotic capabilities.

With the established infrastructure that the space station provides, our RRM team had support as we conceived, designed, built, and flew the RRM demo to space station in 18 months — a timeline that many declared impossible. Fresh satellite-servicing technologies will be demonstrated in a real space environment within months instead of years. This is huge. This represents real progress in space technology advancement.”

— Frank Cepollina, Associate Director of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO), NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

WPI receives Gates Foundation award to develop software tools to enhance student learning

Tools that will be able to tell if students using educational software are engaged or not will be developed with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The foundation’s mission to significantly improve the quality of learning and the level of student success in high school and beyond aligns well with WPI’s multifaceted efforts to augment teaching and learning in K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Like the Gates Foundation, we recognize that keeping students engaged in these subjects and motivating them to continue on to careers in science and technology is vital to our nation’s competitiveness.”

—Dennis Berkey, President and CEO, WPI

 Researchers unveil robot jellyfish built on nanotechnology

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas and Virginia Tech announced the creation of an underwater robot that could help with rescue and surveillance missions. The robot mimics jellyfish movement and runs on renewable energy.

We’ve created an underwater robot that doesn’t need batteries or electricity. The only waste released as it travels is more water. It could stay underwater and refuel itself while it is performing surveillance.”

 — Dr. Yonas Tadesse, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, UT Dallas

The ‘living’ micro-robot that could detect diseases in humans

UK-based researchers are developing a prototype micro-robot that responds to light and chemicals the way biological systems respond. Their findings may one day help to locate diseases within the body.

Nothing matches a living creature’s natural ability to see and smell its environment and therefore to collect data on what’s going on around it. We’re currently developing and testing Cyberplasm’s individual components. We hope to get to the assembly stage within a couple of years. We believe Cyberplasm could start being used in real-world situations within five years.”

— Dr. Daniel Frankel, bioengineer, Newcastle University

Teach your robot well (Georgia Tech shows how)

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Center for Robotics & Intelligent Machines (RIM) have classified the kinds of questions robot’s can use while engaged in learning to help ensure “a smooth and productive human-robot relationship.”

People are not so good at teaching robots because they don’t understand the robots’ learning mechanism. It’s like when you try to train a dog, and it’s difficult because dogs do not learn like humans do. We wanted to find out the best kinds of questions a robot could ask to make the human-robot relationship as ‘human’ as it can be.”

— Maya Cakmak, doctoral student, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Tech

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

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