Recently in Robotics Category

NASA wants to make a C-3PO to help colonize Mars, which may not be a super idea, Wired

"OK, but why use a bipedal robot at all? "We're talking about sending robots to Mars, so is a walking robot best?" asks Keith Cowing, who runs the blog NASAWatch. "If you're just landing in a flat area, why can't it have treads and arms?" Or, if you want the dexterity that legs allow, he suggests putting some arms on a four-legged model, like one of Boston Dynamics' other creations. Cowing isn't an android-hater: He just thinks NASA could do a better job prioritizing its exploratory efforts. If prepping a Mars settlement is NASA's goal, robots are far from the only optionand they could be one of the least efficient. Cowing points out that automated inflating shelters, adapted from emergency response, could be more viable than using human-sized robots to build space shacks from scratch."

Using a Last Place Robot for NASA's Robotics Challenge, earlier post

Keith's note: The R5 robot aka "Valkyrie" was developed in semi-secret by NASA JSC. Several years ago it tied for dead last in the previous DARPA challenge and can't compete this week. But JPL's Robosimian did much better last time and is competing again this year. So ... why is NASA investing all this money in R5, a last place robot design? Why not go with Robosimian instead? Or ... is NASA hoping that external teams, freed (somewhat) from internal NASA issues, might be able to rescue Valkyrie from all of its problems? If so, then maybe that's not so bad of an idea. But why does NASA need to make the R5 copies for people to use? Why not just open source the design and post it online so that others can build (and improve upon) it? After all, taxpayers paid for it. That way you get more R5 units.

- Never Ask NASA a Simple Question, earlier post
- NASA Awards Two Robots to University Groups for R&D Upgrades, earlier post
- Does NASA Have a Robotics Strategy? Did It Ever Have One?, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post

Oh the Places We Won't Go: Humans Will Settle Mars, and Nowhere Else, Lou Friedman

"Humans will become a multi-planet species by making it to Mars, but no farther. That is, they will never travel beyond Mars. Some find this to be negativean absolute statement of limits and thus of giving up. My job here is to prove the opposite: humans exploring the universe with nanotechnology robotics, bio-molecular engineering, and artificial intelligence is something that is exciting and positive, and is based on an optimistic view of the future. ... Getting beyond Mars (with humans) is impossible - not just physically for the foreseeable future but also culturally forever."

Keith's note: Yet another defeatist, robots-instead-of-humans op ed - this time by a founder of the Planetary Society. Indeed, he's afraid to even try. One quick look at the organization's "Humans Orbiting Mars" plan shows that they have to kill the ISS and avoid sending humans back to the Moon so that they can *almost" land on Mars. If this organization has its way humans will never leave low Earth orbit again.

Friedman et al may be too afraid to try and go beyond Mars - back to the Moon - or elsewhere across the solar system - but there are many, many more people who relish the chance to do so.

- Planetary Society Does Not Want Humans on Mars, earlier post
- The Planetary Society Does Not Want "The Martian" To Happen, earlier post
- At Planetary Society: Its Do As I Say - Not As I Do, earlier post
- Planetary Society's Mars Mission Takes Longer To Do Less, earlier post
- Planetary Society is Both For and Against Human Spaceflight, earlier post

Keith's update: Lou Friedman posted a comment (comments section below). He chides me for not reflecting what his book says. DUH, Lou I never read the book. I never said that I had. I responded to your words as posted on the Scientific American website. If there is an "out of context" issue, Lou, then post your entire book online - otherwise, you wrote what you wrote. Don't expect people to be mind readers about what you meant to say - or said somewhere else. Based on your words you are quite clearly a defeatist when it comes to the human exploration of the solar system - a stance that the Planetary Society echoes. Funny how you seek to distance yourself from Planetary Society yet your Twitter handle is @TpsLdf. Just a coincidence, I suppose.

ATLAS robot gets closer to walking like a human, TechGenMag

"When Boston Dynamics first revealed their ATLAS robot on July 11, 2013, the bipedal humanoid robot was a clunky, slow moving contraption tethered to a jumble of cords that performed a variety of controlled tasks awkwardly. Still, we were all impressed by the ATLAS robot's humanlike legs and frame that no doubt offered a tantalizing glimpse into the near future of robotics. Fast forward a year, and with help from the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC), the ATLAS robot has received some serious programming updates that enable it to walk like a human with more agility and control than ever before."

Keith's note: Meanwhile NASA's Valkyrie robot is nowhere to be seen.

- NASA JSC's Valkyrie Robot Tied For Last Place in DARPA Competition, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
- JSC's Girl Robot Lost Competition Due to Broken WiFi, earlier post

What Happened to NASA's Valkyrie Robot at the DRC Trials, and What's Next, IEEE

"At the DRC Trials, Valkyrie experienced a "networking issue" that prevented the team from scoring any points. In the garage before the DRC Trials began, everything worked fine. But on the course itself, the JSC Team "could not communicate with the robot at all." They would later discover the culprit: a network traffic shaping tool that they'd added to their code and that ended up blocking data from the operator to the robot. This manifested itself as a "major instability in the control system," preventing the robot from functioning almost completely."

NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
NASA JSC's Valkyrie Robot Tied For Last Place in DARPA Competition, earlier post
No One is in the Driver's Seat at NASA, earlier post
NASA JSC's Expensive Custom Trailer For Val the Robot, earlier post



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