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December 2, 2020

Australian Team Running Its Own DARPA-Style Cave Challenge to Test Robots

Although the in-person Systems Track event of the DARPA SubT Challenge was cancelled because of the global pandemic, the Systems Track teams still have to prepare for the Final Event in 2021, which will include a cave component. Systems Track teams have been on their own to find cave environments to test in, and many of them are running their own DARPA-style competitions to test their software and hardware. We’ll be posting a series of interviews exploring where and how […]
November 10, 2020

How We Won the DARPA SubT Challenge: Urban Circuit Virtual Track

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent positions of IEEE or its organizational units.​ “Do you smell smoke?” It was three days before the qualification deadline for the Virtual Tunnel Circuit of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge Virtual Track, and our team was barrelling through last-minute updates to our robot controllers in a small conference room at the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) offices in Ann Arbor, Mich. That’s […]
October 14, 2020

The Long Arm of NASA: The OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Gets Ready To Grab An Asteroid Sample

Just how do you bring home pieces of asteroid? Carefully, that’s how, with grudging respect for the curveballs the asteroid can throw you. Sixteen years after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission was first proposed and two years after the robotic spacecraft went into orbit around asteroid 101955 Bennu, mission team members are now counting down to the moment when it will descend to the surface, grab a sample—and then get out of there before anything can go wrong. The sampling is set for next Tuesday, […]
September 30, 2020

Toyota Research Demonstrates Ceiling-Mounted Home Robot

Over the last several years, Toyota has been putting more muscle into forward-looking robotics research than just about anyone. In addition to the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), there’s that massive 175-acre robot-powered city of the future that Toyota still plans to build next to Mount Fuji. Even Toyota itself acknowledges that it might be crazy, but that’s just how they roll—as TRI CEO Gill Pratt told me a while back, when Toyota decides to do something, they really do go […]
September 30, 2020

How Robots Became Essential Workers in the COVID-19 Response

Photo: Sivaram V/Reuters A robot, developed by Asimov Robotics to spread awareness about the coronavirus, holds a tray with face masks and sanitizer. As the coronavirus emergency exploded into a full-blown pandemic in early 2020, forcing countless businesses to shutter, robot-making companies found themselves in an unusual situation: Many saw a surge in orders. Robots don’t need masks, can be easily disinfected, and, of course, they don’t get sick. An army of automatons has since been deployed all over the world to […]
September 23, 2020

Can AI and Automation Deliver a COVID-19 Antiviral While It Still Matters?

sub, sup { position: relative; font-size: 75%; line-height: 0; vertical-align: baseline; margin-left: -5px; } Illustration: Marysia Machulska Within moments of meeting each other at a conference last year, Nathan Collins and Yann Gaston-Mathé began devising a plan to work together. Gaston-Mathé runs a startup that applies automated software to the design of new drug candidates. Collins leads a team that uses an automated chemistry platform to synthesize new drug candidates. “There was an obvious synergy between their technology and ours,” […]
September 1, 2020

Autonomous Robots Could Mine the Deep Seafloor

A battle is brewing over the fate of the deep ocean. Huge swaths of seafloor are rich in metals—nickel, copper, cobalt, zinc—that are key to making electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, and smartphones. Mining companies have proposed scraping and vacuuming the dark expanse to provide supplies for metal-intensive technologies. Marine scientists and environmentalists oppose such plans, warning of huge and potentially permanent damage to fragile ecosystems. Pietro Filardo is among the technology developers who are working to find common ground. […]
August 27, 2020

Caltech's Canon-Launched SQUID Drone Doubles in Size, Goes Autonomous

At IROS last year, Caltech and JPL presented a prototype for a ballistically launched quadrotor—once folded up into a sort of football shape with fins, the drone is stuffed into a tube and then fired straight up with a blast of compressed CO2, at which point it unfolds itself, stabilizes, and then flies off. It’s been about half a year, and the prototype has been scaled up in both size and capability, now with a half-dozen rotors and full onboard […]
August 25, 2020

iRobot Announces Major Software Update, Shift From Pure Autonomy to Human-Robot Collaboration

Since the release of the very first Roomba in 2002, iRobot’s long-term goal has been to deliver cleaner floors in a way that’s effortless and invisible. Which sounds pretty great, right? And arguably, iRobot has managed to do exactly this, with their most recent generation of robot vacuums that make their own maps and empty their own dustbins. For those of us who trust our robots, this is awesome, but iRobot has gradually been realizing that many Roomba users either […]
July 21, 2020

Q&A: Facebook’s CTO Is at War With Bad Content, and AI Is His Best Weapon

Photo: Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images Facebook chief technical officer Mike Schroepfer leads the company’s AI and integrity efforts. Facebook’s challenge is huge. Billions of pieces of content—short and long posts, images, and combinations of the two—are uploaded to the site daily from around the world. And any tiny piece of that—any phrase, image, or video—could contain so-called bad content. In its early days, Facebook relied on simple computer filters to identify potentially problematic posts by their words, such as […]