I've always felt like Australians had their own language going on, what with all the Vegemite and Walkabouts and such, but now some Aussie researchers have set a few robots loose on the linguistic landscape. The result is that the Lingodroids have actually managed to create their own language. Using only their shared understanding of some apparently nonsense words, the Lingodroids more-or-less successfully communicated directions to each other and even created fairly accurate maps of their surroundings.
Here's the basic gist of how it works. The Lingodroids assign a randomly chosen syllable combination to name a specific location. … Read more
MEDFORD, Mass.--In this densely populated city outside Boston without a farm in sight, agriculture researchers are engineering corn and other crops to become better biofuels.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack last week visited Agrivida, a small company working on a method it hopes will help deliver on the biofuels industry's promise of economically making fuel and chemicals from non-food crops. Vilsack toured the lab of Agrivida to draw attention to federal investments in renewable energy research and development.
Cheaper biofuels will help lower fuel costs and provide economic development in rural areas of the U.S., … Read more
In a keynote address yesterday to the 64th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates spoke for nearly half an hour to health ministers from 193 countries about the importance of "seeking good health care for every human being."
"I believe we have the opportunity to make a new future in which global health is the cornerstone of global prosperity," he said.
Gates called on the assembly to make this "the Decade of Vaccines," with some basic goals: eradicate polio early in this decade; build a system capable of delivering vaccines to every child; make five or six new vaccines available to all children around the world. With these investments, Gates said, the world "can save 4 million lives by 2015 and 10 million lives by 2020."
Another challenge Gates cited was lowering the cost of antigenic materials, such as pentavalent, pneumococcus, and rotavirus vaccines. The Gates Foundation is working with vaccine manufacturers to cut prices of those inoculations in half by 2016. Lower costs would be beneficial to many countries around the world that are reeling from budget woes. … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--With commander Mark Kelly at the controls, the shuttle Endeavour caught up with the International Space Station early today, looping under and then ahead of the lab complex before gliding back to a "silky smooth" docking at the station's forward port at 6:14 a.m. EDT.
"Houston and station, capture's confirmed," pilot Gregory Johnson radioed as the two spacecraft sailed through orbital darkness 220 miles above the south Pacific Ocean.
Inside the space station, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli rang the ship's bell in a traditional naval … Read more
"Welcome to McDonald's. My name is HAL 9000. May I take your order?"
McDonalds recently went on a hiring binge in the U.S., adding 62,000 employees to its roster. The hiring picture doesn't look quite so rosy for Europe, where the fast food chain is drafting 7,000 touch-screen kiosks to handle cashiering duties.
The move is designed to boost efficiency and make ordering more convenient for customers. In an interview with the Financial Times, McDonald's Europe President Steve Easterbrook notes that the new system will also open up a goldmine of data. McDonald's could potentially track every Big Mac, McNugget, and large shake you order. A calorie account tally at the end of the year could be a real shocker.
The touch screens will only accept debit or credit cards, adding to the slow death knell of cash and coins. This all goes along with an overall revamp of McDonald's restaurants worldwide aimed at projecting a modern image as opposed to the old-fashioned golden arches with a slightly creepy (to my taste anyway) clown guy hanging around the french fries.
This puts McDonald's one step closer to opening up its first Alphaville location. At least our new computer overlords will be nice enough to serve us a Filet-o-Fish. Maybe they'll even throw in an iPad with the Happy Meal one of these days.… Read more
The history of flight is notoriously fickle. Orville Wright managed to stay aloft for just 12 seconds in his plane in 1903. Last week, Judy Wexler hovered a few inches above the ground for about 4 seconds in a human-powered helicopter, but it was enough to put a mark in the history books.
The University of Maryland has played host to the creation of the Gamera helicopter, named for a giant flying turtle superhero that can give Godzilla a run for his money.
Gamera is usually seen flying by spinning around rapidly like a big, scaly Frisbee. The helicopter version features four 42-foot-long rotors in an X pattern with the pilot at the center. Counting the 110-pound Wexler, a University of Maryland biology student, the whole contraption weighs in at a slim 210 pounds worth of balsa, mylar, carbon fiber, and foam. Hand and foot pedals provide the power.
Gamera is chasing a lofty goal. The American Helicopter Society's Sikorsky Prize offers $250,000 for a human-powered helicopter that hovers for 60 seconds, stays within a 10-meter square space, and reaches a 3-meter altitude. That's a tall order. … Read more
Remember that little robot that scoots along the corridors of the Death Star? These Georgia Tech machines remind me of that little guy. But they're designed to help people on Earth by mapping out building interiors.
The rolling droids are being developed by Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, and the California Institute of Technology/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Equipped with two cameras and laser scanners, they can autonomously explore hallways in an unfamiliar building, detecting doors and windows, and create a map for users such as soldiers or firefighters.
The project is part of the Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) program and is being sponsored by the Army Research Laboratory. The program is aimed at developing palm-size machines that can hover in place, enter buildings, and perform other insect-like stunts while gathering data and relaying it to human controllers.
The Georgia Tech robots in the vid below roll on treads and measure about a foot square, but researchers plan to shrink them. "Fully autonomous and collaborative, these tiny robots could swarm by the scores into hazardous situations," Georgia Tech said in a release.
Creepy? Definitely. The only thing worse than swarming robots are baby robots. But I digress. … Read more
She was charged for the airline ticket, but the mid-flight viewing of a space shuttle launch was free.
Stefanie Gordon of Hoboken, N.J., woke up on Delta Air Lines flight 2285 Monday traveling from New York's LaGuardia Airport to West Palm Beach, Fla., in time to watch the space shuttle Endeavour break through some cloud cover on its way to the International Space Station.
"The captain made an announcement that we would probably see it," Gordon told CBSNews. "I really couldn't hear what he was saying, and then all of a sudden people started getting up and going over to the windows."
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--Running two weeks late because of an electrical glitch, the repaired shuttle Endeavour finally blasted off and rocketed into orbit for the last time Monday, putting on a spectacular, if brief, show for the several hundred thousand spectators who were estimated to have come to watch NASA's next-to-last shuttle launch.
Carrying a $2 billion particle physics experiment, critical supplies, and spare parts bound for the International Space Station, Endeavour's three main engines flashed to life and throttled up to full power while computers monitored their performance 50 times per second.
European research group Fraunhofer has developed an inertial sensor system which, together with a handheld remote control, lets people program the movement of a robotic arm simply by moving their own arms, in a sort of "follow the leader" fashion.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing, Engineering, and Automation in Stuttgart, Germany, devised algorithms governing the interactions of inertial sensors in the input device, which can be used to control the six-jointed robot arm.
The algorithms "fuse the data of individual sensors and identify a pattern of movement. That means we can detect movements in free space," the institute's Bernhard Kleiner said in a release.
Potential applications include easier programming of industrial robots: instead of teaching an assembly robot what to do by guiding it with a baton that it follows with laser tracking, workers could instruct the robot by simply moving their own arms.
A potential medical application is regulating the movements of active prostheses. The inertial sensor system could be attached to a patient's upper thigh and control the motors in a prosthetic foot to achieve a smoother gait.
The technology will be shown off at the Sensor +Test 2011 trade fair, June 7-9 in Nuremberg, where visitors will be able to control the robot using their arms, and make it catch a ball. … Read more