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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 […]
July 14, 2020

Ex-Googler's Startup Comes Out of Stealth With Beautifully Simple, Clever Robot Design

Over the last 10 years, the PR2 has helped roboticists make an enormous amount of progress in mobile manipulation over a relatively short time. I mean, it’s been a decade already, but still—robots are hard, and giving a bunch of smart people access to a capable platform where they didn’t have to worry about hardware and could instead focus on doing interesting and useful things helped to establish a precedent for robotics research going forward. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford […]
June 29, 2020

Q&A: The Masterminds Behind Toyota’s Self-Driving Cars Say AI Still Has a Way to Go

Illustration: iStockphoto Getting a car to drive itself is undoubtedly the most ambitious commercial application of artificial intelligence (AI). The research project was kicked into life by the 2004 DARPA Urban Challenge and then taken up as a business proposition, first by Alphabet, and later by the big automakers. The industry-wide effort vacuumed up many of the world’s best roboticists and set rival companies on a multibillion-dollar acquisitions spree. It also launched a cycle of hype that paraded ever more ambitious […]
June 22, 2020

How Roboticists (and Robots) Have Been Working from Home

A few weeks ago, we asked folks on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to share photos and videos showing how they’ve been adapting to the closures of research labs, classrooms, and businesses by taking their robots home with them to continue their work as best they can. We got dozens of responses (more than we could possibly include in just one post!), but here are 15 that we thought were particularly creative or amusing. And if any of these pictures and […]
June 19, 2020

Quickly Embed AI Into Your Projects With Nvidia’s Jetson Nano

Illustration: James Provost When opportunity knocks, open the door: No one has taken heed of that adage like Nvidia, which has transformed itself from a company focused on catering to the needs of video gamers to one at the heart of the artificial-intelligence revolution. In 2001, no one predicted that the same processor architecture developed to draw realistic explosions in 3D would be just the thing to power a renaissance in deep learning. But when Nvidia realized that academics were gobbling […]
June 16, 2020

Boston Dynamics' Spot Robot Dog Now Available for $74,500

Boston Dynamics has been fielding questions about when its robots are going to go on sale and how much they’ll cost for at least a dozen years now. I can say this with confidence, because that’s how long I’ve been a robotics journalist, and I’ve been pestering them about it the entire time. But it’s only relatively recently that the company started to make a concerted push away from developing robots exclusively for the likes of DARPA into platforms with […]