AI News, Video Friday: Mars Helicopter, 100 Dancing Robots, and Putin's Combat Cyborg

Video Friday: Mars Helicopter, 100 Dancing Robots, and Putin's Combat Cyborg

In one of the wilder ideas we’ve heard for planetary exploration, NASA’sJet Propulsion Laboratory is proposing that we send a little robotic helicopter to Mars as an aerial scout for a rover on the ground.

The copter would be completely self-contained, using a small solar panel to give it a few minutes of flight time every day, while simultaneously storing up enough energy to keep itself from freezing to death at night.

The JPL Mars Helicopter could potentially triple the distance that rovers are able to drive each day, since the robotwill be able to confidently survey the route and pre-plan ways around obstacles or dangerous areas.

Also, the helicopter could fly around to check out potential sampling sites, making sure that the rover only has to travel between areas that have already been identified as interesting.

Trying to fly where there isn’t much atmosphere to work with is tricky, but it’s cool that the prototype can be tested in a gigantic vacuum chamber that lets researchers see if it would really work.

If this thing gets added to a mission, we’re looking at a 1 kilogram vehicle with a 1 meter blade span and a body about the size of a box of tissues.

Other mark making was done by using the turn in place behavior.The turn in place enabled the legs to have longer contact with the ground to make more interesting marks.

“With Haptics-1 we are paving the way towards an entirely new type of combined human-robotic mission,” says Dr. Andre Schiele, the principal investigator of the experiment and founder of the ESA Telerobotics

“We are investigating in great detail the limits of human perception and the ability of robotics to apply fine forces and manipulations in a weightless environment.

With Haptics-1, this type of science and technology experiment is taking place for the first time in space.” Before today neither the ESA, NASA nor any other space-fairing nation have gained detailed experience in this domain.

In addition to measuring physiological parameters, Haptics-1 provides important insights on how force-reflection from a remote robotic system changes human perception in space.

With these measurements, advanced robotic control equipment can be designed to better reflect the realities of human manipulation through a robotic interface in a weightless environment.

This may not look especially impressive, but keep in mind that DLR’s robot helicopter is autonomously navigating from inside to outside through a window without the use of any external localization aides, just onboard stereo vision and lasers:


A robot is a machine—especially one programmable by a computer— capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically.[2] Robots can be guided by an external control device or the control may be embedded within.

It was sold to General Motors in 1961 where it was used to lift pieces of hot metal from die casting machines at the Inland Fisher Guide Plant in the West Trenton section of Ewing Township, New Jersey.[9] Robots have replaced humans[10] in performing repetitive and dangerous tasks which humans prefer not to do, or are unable to do because of size limitations, or which take place in extreme environments such as outer space or the bottom of the sea.

The word robot can refer to both physical robots and virtual software agents, but the latter are usually referred to as bots.[12] There is no consensus on which machines qualify as robots but there is general agreement among experts, and the public, that robots tend to possess some or all of the following abilities and functions: accept electronic programming, process data or physical perceptions electronically, operate autonomously to some degree, move around, operate physical parts of itself or physical processes, sense and manipulate their environment, and exhibit intelligent behavior, especially behavior which mimics humans or other animals.[13][14] Closely related to the concept of a robot is the field of Synthetic Biology, which studies entities whose nature is more comparable to beings than to machines.

Early descriptions of automata include the artificial doves of Archytas,[17] the artificial birds of Mozi and Lu Ban,[18] a 'speaking' automaton by Hero of Alexandria, a washstand automaton by Philo of Byzantium, and a human automaton described in the Lie Zi.[15] Many ancient mythologies, and most modern religions include artificial people, such as the mechanical servants built by the Greek god Hephaestus[19] (Vulcan to the Romans), the clay golems of Jewish legend and clay giants of Norse legend, and Galatea, the mythical statue of Pygmalion that came to life.

Hero of Alexandria (10–70 AD), a Greek mathematician and inventor, created numerous user-configurable automated devices, and described machines powered by air pressure, steam and water.[22] The 11th century Lokapannatti tells of how the Buddha's relics were protected by mechanical robots (bhuta vahana yanta), from the kingdom of Roma visaya (Rome);

Yan Shi proudly presented the king with a life-size, human-shaped figure of his mechanical 'handiwork' made of leather, wood, and artificial organs.[15] There are also accounts of flying automata in the Han Fei Zi and other texts, which attributes the 5th century BC Mohist philosopher Mozi and his contemporary Lu Ban with the invention of artificial wooden birds (ma yuan) that could successfully fly.[18] In 1066, the Chinese inventor Su Song built a water clock in the form of a tower which featured mechanical figurines which chimed the hours.

The drummer could be made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns by moving the pegs to different locations.[27] Samarangana Sutradhara, a Sanskrit treatise by Bhoja (11th century), includes a chapter about the construction of mechanical contrivances (automata), including mechanical bees and birds, fountains shaped like humans and animals, and male and female dolls that refilled oil lamps, danced, played instruments, and re-enacted scenes from Hindu mythology.[28][29][30] In Renaissance Italy, Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) sketched plans for a humanoid robot around 1495.

The mechanical duck could flap its wings, crane its neck, and swallow food from the exhibitor's hand, and it gave the illusion of digesting its food by excreting matter stored in a hidden compartment.[34] Remotely operated vehicles were demonstrated in the late 19th century in the form of several types of remotely controlled torpedoes.

The early 1870s saw remotely controlled torpedoes by John Ericsson (pneumatic), John Louis Lay (electric wire guided), and Victor von Scheliha (electric wire guided).[35] The Brennan torpedo, invented by Louis Brennan in 1877 was powered by two contra-rotating propellors that were spun by rapidly pulling out wires from drums wound inside the torpedo.

Differential speed on the wires connected to the shore station allowed the torpedo to be guided to its target, making it 'the world's first practical guided missile'.[36] In 1897 the British inventor Ernest Wilson was granted a patent for a torpedo remotely controlled by 'Hertzian' (radio) waves[37][38] and in 1898 Nikola Tesla publicly demonstrated a wireless-controlled torpedo that he hoped to sell to the US Navy.[39][40] Archibald Low, known as the 'father of radio guidance systems' for his pioneering work on guided rockets and planes during the First World War.

However, Josef Čapek was named by his brother Karel as the true inventor of the term robot.[7][8] The word 'robot' itself was not new, having been in Slavic language as robota (forced laborer), a term which classified those peasants obligated to compulsory service under the feudal system widespread in 19th century Europe (see: Robot Patent).[41][42] Čapek's fictional story postulated the technological creation of artificial human bodies without souls, and the old theme of the feudal robota class eloquently fit the imagination of a new class of manufactured, artificial workers.

In 1939, the humanoid robot known as Elektro was debuted at the 1939 New York World's Fair.[45][46] Seven feet tall (2.1 m) and weighing 265 pounds (120.2 kg), it could walk by voice command, speak about 700 words (using a 78-rpm record player), smoke cigarettes, blow up balloons, and move its head and arms.

This ultimately laid the foundations of the modern robotics industry.[48] Devol sold the first Unimate to General Motors in 1960, and it was installed in 1961 in a plant in Trenton, New Jersey to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them.[49] Devol's patent for the first digitally operated programmable robotic arm represents the foundation of the modern robotics industry.[50] The first palletizing robot was introduced in 1963 by the Fuji Yusoki Kogyo Company.[51] In 1973, a robot with six electromechanically driven axes was patented[52][53][54] by KUKA robotics in Germany, and the programmable universal manipulation arm was invented by Victor Scheinman in 1976, and the design was sold to Unimation.

The International Organization for Standardization gives a definition of a manipulating industrial robot in ISO 8373: 'an automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose, manipulator programmable in three or more axes, which may be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications.'[77] This definition is used by the International Federation of Robotics, the European Robotics Research Network (EURON) and many national standards committees.[78] Most commonly industrial robots are fixed robotic arms and manipulators used primarily for production and distribution of goods.

Because modular robots of the same architecture type are composed of modules that compose different modular robots, a snake-arm robot can combine with another to form a dual or quadra-arm robot, or can split into several mobile robots, and mobile robots can split into multiple smaller ones, or combine with others into a larger or different one.

Intended for sale to small businesses, they are promoted as the robotic analogue of the personal computer.[89] As of May 2014[update], 190 companies in the US have bought Baxters and they are being used commercially in the UK.[11] Roughly half of all the robots in the world are in Asia, 32% in Europe, and 16% in North America, 1% in Australasia and 1% in Africa.[92] 40% of all the robots in the world are in Japan,[93] making Japan the country with the highest number of robots.

As robots have become more advanced and sophisticated, experts and academics have increasingly explored the questions of what ethics might govern robots' behavior,[95] and whether robots might be able to claim any kind of social, cultural, ethical or legal rights.[96] One scientific team has said that it is possible that a robot brain will exist by 2019.[97] Others predict robot intelligence breakthroughs by 2050.[98] Recent advances have made robotic behavior more sophisticated.[99] The social impact of intelligent robots is subject of a 2010 documentary film called Plug

They noted that self-awareness as depicted in science-fiction is probably unlikely, but that there were other potential hazards and pitfalls.[101] Various media sources and scientific groups have noted separate trends in differing areas which might together result in greater robotic functionalities and autonomy, and which pose some inherent concerns.[103][104][105] In 2015, the Nao alderen robots were shown to have a capability for a degree of self-awareness.

Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute AI and Reasoning Lab in New York conducted an experiment where a robot became aware of itself, and corrected its answer to a question once it had realised this.[106] Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions.[107] There are also concerns about technology which might allow some armed robots to be controlled mainly by other robots.[108] The US Navy has funded a report which indicates that, as military robots become more complex, there should be greater attention to implications of their ability to make autonomous decisions.[109][110] One researcher states that autonomous robots might be more humane, as they could make decisions more effectively.

However, other experts question this.[111] One robot in particular, the EATR, has generated public concerns[112] over its fuel source, as it can continually refuel itself using organic substances.[113] Although the engine for the EATR is designed to run on biomass and vegetation[114] specifically selected by its sensors, which it can find on battlefields or other local environments, the project has stated that chicken fat can also be used.[115] Manuel De Landa has noted that 'smart missiles' and autonomous bombs equipped with artificial perception can be considered robots, as they make some of their decisions autonomously.

Mass-produced printed circuit boards (PCBs) are almost exclusively manufactured by pick-and-place robots, typically with SCARA manipulators, which remove tiny electronic components from strips or trays, and place them on to PCBs with great accuracy.[121] Such robots can place hundreds of thousands of components per hour, far out-performing a human in speed, accuracy, and reliability.[122] Mobile robots, following markers or wires in the floor, or using vision[123] or lasers, are used to transport goods around large facilities, such as warehouses, container ports, or hospitals.[124] Limited to tasks that could be accurately defined and had to be performed the same way every time.

The job may be boring, such as domestic cleaning, or dangerous, such as exploring inside a volcano.[131] Other jobs are physically inaccessible, such as exploring another planet,[132] cleaning the inside of a long pipe, or performing laparoscopic surgery.[133] Almost every unmanned space probe ever launched was a robot.[134][135] Some were launched in the 1960s with very limited abilities, but their ability to fly and land (in the case of Luna 9) is an indication of their status as a robot.

For instance, a laparoscopic surgery robot allows the surgeon to work inside a human patient on a relatively small scale compared to open surgery, significantly shortening recovery time.[133] They can also be used to avoid exposing workers to the hazardous and tight spaces such as in duct cleaning.

These pilotless drones can search terrain and fire on targets.[137][138] Hundreds of robots such as iRobot's Packbot and the Foster-Miller TALON are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. military to defuse roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in an activity known as explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).[139] Robots are used to automate picking fruit on orchards at a cost lower than that of human pickers.

UCAVs are being designed such as the BAE Systems Mantis which would have the ability to fly themselves, to pick their own course and target, and to make most decisions on their own.[143] The BAE Taranis is a UCAV built by Great Britain which can fly across continents without a pilot and has new means to avoid detection.[144] Flight trials are expected to begin in 2011.[145][146] The AAAI has studied this topic in depth[95] and its president has commissioned a study to look at this issue.[147] Some have suggested a need to build 'Friendly AI', meaning that the advances which are already occurring with AI should also include an effort to make AI intrinsically friendly and humane.[148] Several such measures reportedly already exist, with robot-heavy countries such as Japan and South Korea[149] having begun to pass regulations requiring robots to be equipped with safety systems, and possibly sets of 'laws' akin to Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.[150][151] An official report was issued in 2009 by the Japanese government's Robot Industry Policy Committee.[152] Chinese officials and researchers have issued a report suggesting a set of ethical rules, and a set of new legal guidelines referred to as 'Robot Legal Studies.'[153] Some concern has been expressed over a possible occurrence of robots telling apparent falsehoods.[154] Mining robots are designed to solve a number of problems currently facing the mining industry, including skills shortages, improving productivity from declining ore grades, and achieving environmental targets.

One of the world's largest mining corporations, Rio Tinto, has recently expanded its autonomous truck fleet to the world's largest, consisting of 150 autonomous Komatsu trucks, operating in Western Australia.[155] Similarly, BHP has announced the expansion of its autonomous drill fleet to the world's largest, 21 autonomous Atlas Copco drills.[156] Drilling, longwall and rockbreaking machines are now also available as autonomous robots.[157] The Atlas Copco Rig Control System can autonomously execute a drilling plan on a drilling rig, moving the rig into position using GPS, set up the drill rig and drill down to specified depths.[158] Similarly, the Transmin Rocklogic system can automatically plan a path to position a rockbreaker at a selected destination.[159] These systems greatly enhance the safety and efficiency of mining operations.

The population is aging in many countries, especially Japan, meaning that there are increasing numbers of elderly people to care for, but relatively fewer young people to care for them.[161][162] Humans make the best carers, but where they are unavailable, robots are gradually being introduced.[163] FRIEND is a semi-autonomous robot designed to support disabled and elderly people in their daily life activities, like preparing and serving a meal.

Algorithms have been designed in case any such robots become a reality.[171] Robots with silicone bodies and flexible actuators (air muscles, electroactive polymers, and ferrofluids) look and feel different from robots with rigid skeletons, and can have different behaviors.[172] Inspired by colonies of insects such as ants and bees, researchers are modeling the behavior of swarms of thousands of tiny robots which together perform a useful task, such as finding something hidden, cleaning, or spying.

Robotic forces allow simulating the mechanical properties of 'virtual' objects, which users can experience through their sense of touch.[177] Robotic characters, androids (artificial men/women) or gynoids (artificial women), and cyborgs (also 'bionic men/women', or humans with significant mechanical enhancements) have become a staple of science fiction.

Possibly the most prolific author of the twentieth century was Isaac Asimov (1920–1992)[179] who published over five-hundred books.[180] Asimov is probably best remembered for his science-fiction stories and especially those about robots, where he placed robots and their interaction with society at the center of many of his works.[181][182] Asimov carefully considered the problem of the ideal set of instructions robots might be given in order to lower the risk to humans, and arrived at his Three Laws of Robotics: a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;

Watch Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini Robot Open a Door

You could argue that the door handle has had a disproportionate influence on modern robotics.

With the dexterity of a tray-carrying butler, it uses its foot to prop the door ajar, then elbows it all the way open for its (armless) SpotMini friend to walk through.

Maybe the Darpa Robotics Challenge had it wrong with humanoids after all, and the best robots for rescue operations will look nothing like humans—or any other animal, for that matter.

(Though one particular humanoid, Cassie, does much better in part because it doesn't yet have an upper body to worry about yet.) Walking on two legs is a monumental challenge;

It’s a hybrid creature that shows the awesome power of robotics: Human engineers are inventing an incredible array of new species because they’re not bound by the rules of nature, just physics.

This Tiny Robot Walks, Crawls, Jumps and Swims. But It Is Not Alive.

Leif Ristroph, a mathematician at New York University’s Courant Institute who developed a small flying robot that mimics the motion of jellyfish, wrote in an email: “The array of behaviors and capabilities is certainly impressive and sets this robot apart from most others.” “These critters are very cute!” he said.

“Love how the authors put the little guy through mini-obstacle courses.” “My other thought is that the pilot, who we don’t see, is also quite impressive,” added Dr. Ristroph, who was not involved in the research.

“Clearly whoever is controlling the magnetic fields has gained some hard-earned intuition and fine skills based on a lot of experience and trial-and-error.” The research was reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

One of the current major goals is to put this tiny soft robot into our digestive system or urinary system — and in the future, the vascular system — and for it to be able to navigate across all these complex tissues, surfaces which are fully filled with fluids or semi-filled, or no fluids.

That’s another scientific challenge we solved in this study: how you can combine the caterpillars, jellyfish and all these different, small, soft organisms into one relatively minimalist robot that can achieve all different types of motion to navigate in complex environments.

Boston Dynamics robots can now hold the door for its friends

Outfitted with an articulating arm and clamp similar to the one it used to wash dishes in the original video, we see the new SpotMini locate, recognize, and deftly operate a door handle, and then hold the door to let its arm-less sibling march through.

It’s a more delicate operation than when the Atlas robot brutishly muscled its way through a push-bar door in 2016, which means we might have to reevaluate our original assessment of the new SpotMini as “slightly less terrifying.” Like Doctors Grant and Sadler, we may have overestimated these bad boys.

Introducing Handle

Handle is a research robot that stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4​ ​feet vertically. ​It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range...