The Spirit rover, currently out of commission on the surface of Mars, could be awakened in the coming weeks.
Speaking to Space.com, John Callas, NASA's head of the Mars rover program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that the "increasing" sunlight on the Mars surface is giving him and his team some hope that it can put the solar-powered Spirit rover back on the job.
"As long as [sunlight is increasing], we will do all we can to increase the chances of hearing from the rover again," Callas told the publication.
LAS VEGAS--iRobot demoed its updated line of robot floor cleaners at CES 2011, showing off a more powerful Roomba vacuum bot and a much more compact Scooba floor scrubber.
Roomba hoovered some crushed Cheerios, while Scooba got to work on a coffee-stained tile floor. Both robots go on sale this spring. They're similar to their predecessors, but have important differences.
Both updates have the iAdapt cleaning tech, a sensor and software system that monitors the floor more than 60 times per second and chooses from dozens of robot behaviors to get the job done, the company says.
I played around with the Scooba 350 last year, and wasn't crazy about its bulk, which proved a bit of a pain when emptying the cleaning fluid tanks.
At only 6.5 inches across and 3.5 inches tall, the new Scooba 230 has a much smaller footprint, making maintenance easier, and it can be grabbed with one hand. The new size, however, is mainly designed to allow the robot to get into tight corners around toilets, which was never a delightful chore anyway.
The 230 can scrub up to 150 square feet of sealed hardwood, tile, or linoleum floors, and has edge-detect sensors to keep it away from stairs and drop-offs while working. The company says it can neutralize up to 97 percent of common household bacteria.
A neat feature is how the reservoirs work: An active reservoir system separates the cleaning solution from the dirty water. The active reservoir shrinks as more cleaning fluid is put down on the floor, allowing it to suck up more dirty water. iRobot says this eliminates dirty water from the cleaning area so the robot isn't just moving dirt around like a mop can. … Read more
You're in a dense urban neighborhood, and you're looking for parking. You could circle for half an hour, swearing at the guy who stole the space you totally saw first, or you could rely on technology developed to explore Venus to nab a spot.
While parking might not sound like the concern of space agencies, France is literally using space-age technology to solve a mundane Earth-bound problem. The tech was originally developed to help balloons communicate with each other, as they floated through the clouds of Venus. The host balloons would have sensors that detect changes in the electromagnetic environment around them and send data to other balloons to help map the atmosphere.
The project was grounded due to budget cuts, though, so the tech was recycled into the pavement of France's fourth largest city, Toulouse, where the sensors are connected to one another under the pavement via coaxial cables.
The parking system is the work of a local start-up called Lyberta and the Centre Nationale d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France's counterpart to NASA, which is also based in Toulouse. There are about 3,000 of the sensors, spaced about 9 inches apart beneath the pavement, and each can detect a parking spot within a little fewer than 1,000 feet. Together, they can pinpoint areas that have available parking. The data is then shared in real time via a free smartphone app that displays a green icon to indicate a free parking spot. … Read more
A Cambridge University professor is developing a navigation system that does what most boyfriends can't: read your emotions, sense what's going on, and adapt to the situation.
Just kidding about the boyfriend part.
Charles is a robot that is more co-pilot than GPS device. Frustrated by unintuitive gadgets that aren't helpful--let alone interactive--Professor Peter Robinson, who leads the Rainbow Group working on computer graphics and interaction at Cambridge, developed an emotionally intelligent navigation system that can tell how you're feeling and respond accordingly.
The system uses sensors and algorithms of predefined mental states to track facial cues, tone of voice, body language, and posture. Using this information, Charles can read human emotion with a 70 percent accuracy rate, which is on par with human ability, Robinson says in a YouTube video demonstrating his project.
But reading emotion is only one aspect of the robot's capability. Charles can also respond with human-like emotion.
With cameras for eyes and 24 motors for muscles, the robot's head and mouth moves as it gives directions and mimics human expressions. Unlike current GPS systems, Charles politely tells you where to go based on conversation. Should you not agree with the directions Charles provides, you can suggest an alternate route. Instead of saying it's recalculating or insisting on the programmed route, the robot actually agrees with your decision. … Read more
'Tis the season to be pickling your liver in alcohol. And, it turns out, soaking stuff in booze has a salubrious effect besides making people happy. Apparently, it can make materials superconductive.
Research in Japan shows that a soaking in commercial alcohol can turn down the dial on at least one material's electrical conductivity to zero. Yoshihiko Takano and colleagues at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) outside Tokyo published research describing how booze can induce superconductivity in an iron-tellurium-based substance.
The material isn't normally superconductive, but can be after immersion in an alcoholic beverage heated to about 70 Celsius (158 Fahrenheit). The team then compared the effectiveness of various drinks, including red wine, sake, beer, and shochu (a distilled beverage), and found that red wine was best in inducing superconductivity.
The bizarre result followed experiments by Takano and colleagues in which accidental exposure of the iron compound to air turned it into a superconductor. Other experiments found that soaking the material in water did the trick.
When a fellow superconductivity researcher visited for a lecture, Takano organized a party and wondered whether the sake and beer they were knocking back might also work.… Read more
Well, should sporting prowess have passed you by, or should you have suffered an unfortunate career-ending injury on a night out with some foreign language students, perhaps you might might use your computer to discover a planet or two.
Or, in the case of British utility worker Peter Jalowiczor, four.
The Daily Mail reports that Jalowiczor is something of an astronomical enthusiast, despite not actually owning a telescope. If you want to discover a previously unknown planet, you don't apparently need the technology enjoyed by Admiral Lord Nelson.
Hewlett-Packard has won a contract from NASA worth up to $2.5 billion.
The contract was awarded Monday and calls for Hewlett-Packard to provide and manage up to $2.5 billion worth of PCs, software, peripherals, and associated end-user and IT services for the space agency over 10 years, according to a NASA press release. Specifically, HP will offer services to support NASA personnel in business, science, research, and computation.
HP beat out longtime NASA contractor Lockheed Martin to pick up the lucrative project.
"Our team is disappointed that NASA selected another solution," Sheila Collins, a spokeswoman for … Read more
The Satellite Sentinel Project, launched today, will be monitoring Sudan from above and sharing information with the world in near real-time in an effort to deter violence.
The oil-rich southern region of Sudan is poised to hold a referendum on January 9 that could decide whether Sudan remains one country, or becomes politically divided into north and south entities. Many expect that there will be violence leading up to the vote, as well as after it, and that the Sudan could once again descend into chaos as it did during its 20-year war in which an estimated 2 million people … Read more
Researchers are using nanoparticles to create a material sensitive enough to analyze a person's breath in real time and detect indicators of cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses.
Scientists at Purdue University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology said today that even though diagnostic breath-analysis tools have been around for several decades, this is the first time a material has been developed that's sensitive enough to deliver on-the-spot results.
"We are talking about creating an inexpensive, rapid way of collecting diagnostic information about a patient," Carlos Martinez, an assistant professor of materials engineering at Purdue, … Read more
If you thought your English teacher was a robotic bore, spare a thought for kids in South Korea. They're being taught by real robots.
The city of Daegu introduced 29 robot teachers in 19 elementary schools as part of a large-scale project to robotize teaching. The ambitious effort envisioned robots in all 8,400 kindergartens in Korea by 2013.
Kids at Hakjung Elementary School seemed thrilled to interact with robots like the globular Engkey (above and in the vid below). It's about 3.2 feet tall and rolls around the classroom on wheels, asking questions in English and … Read more