Teams from around Northern California gathered this week at the University of California at Davis for the FIRST Robotics Competition, an event in which high school engineers design and build robots that must complete technical tasks throughout the games. (More details after the jump.)
The space shuttle Atlantis, bolted to a mobile launch platform atop an Apollo-era crawler-transporter, was hauled to launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday for work to ready the ship for blastoff May 12 on a fifth and final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.
Originally scheduled for launch on October 14, the long-awaited Hubble overhaul was delayed when one channel of a critical data-processing system unit aboard the telescope failed just two weeks before liftoff. NASA managers decided to replace Hubble's entire science instrument command and data handling unit, or SI/C&DH, to restore redundancy and improve reliability.
But testing a spare ground unit at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., getting it certified for flight, and working the mission back into NASA's shuttle manifest ended up delaying Atlantis and Hubble Servicing Mission 4, or SM-4, for seven months, when all was said and done.
The replacement SI/C&DH was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center on Monday, and Atlantis, attached to an external fuel tank and two solid-fuel boosters, took its first step toward space with a six-and-a-half-hour, 3.2-mile trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building to pad 39A on Tuesday.
Shuttle commander Scott Altman, pilot Gregory C. Johnson, flight engineer Megan McArthur, and spacewalkers John Grunsfeld, Michael Massimino, Andrew Feustel, and Michael Good plan to fly to Kennedy late this week to inspect the replacement computer unit before it is moved to the pad April 18, along with the rest of the Hubble payload, for installation in Atlantis' cargo bay.… Read more
We're not just moving toward the day when robots can do everything for us. We're apparently moving toward the day when we can just think about what we want done, and get it (almost) presto.
Japan's Honda Research Institute and precision-equipment manufacturer Shimadzu on Tuesday demonstrated a rather mind-boggling technology that lets humans control a bot through thought alone--thus taking the pesky button pressing, voice commands, and remote controls out of the equation.
But don't start trying to telepath your Scooba into writing your doctoral thesis just yet. For now, researchers are focusing on getting the … Read more
"This is Google's effort to take advantage of our resources to support innovation and encourage promising new technology companies," said Google Ventures managing partners Rich Miner and Bill Maris in a blog post announcing the effort. "By borrowing the best practices of top-tier, financially focused venture capital firms and bringing to bear Google's unique technical expertise and brand, we think we can find young companies with truly awesome potential and encourage their development into … Read more
A cool new contraption called the GlideCycle is putting a novel spin on outdoor exercise for amputees and others with mobility limitations. Users sit in a patented sling-type seat that essentially lifts them into a smooth-arch suspension, letting them power forward on one or two legs with virtually no impact to injured limbs and joints.
Ashland, Ore., resident and runner David Vidmar conceived of the two-wheel mobility device following a knee injury. He and others with sports injuries can rehabilitate by favoring the uninjured limb and adding more weight as the healing advances.
But most striking are the GlideCycle's applications for people with disabilities. The Web site includes testimonials from people with conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, who report that the GlideCycle has given them the freedom to get outside independently and run for miles. … Read more
Many new car buyers face a similar dilemma: You want to customize a new car, but don't know if you'll like the maroon leather interior that looks great in the catalog but always seems too pimplike in person. Not wanting to make an expensive mistake, you go with the safe silver-and-black combo, just like everyone else.
Cater, a technology group funded by the European Commission, is working on software that could help shoppers customize with confidence.
Using virtual-reality technology, Cater is building a car customization application that helps customers picture more realistically, and spatially experience, what their configured … Read more
Allergies are probably the most obvious way nature tells you it doesn't want you around. I know this love/hate relationship very well because it's spring and I've been sneezing in fits. What I don't always know, however, is how much nature hates me and just when it'll show it.
Fortunately, there are robots to help you with just that--if you live in Japan, that is.
According to NTDT TV, Weather News, a Japanese weather information company, has produced 500 globe-shaped robots that change color depending on the amount of allergy-causing pollen in the air. … Read more
This one's from a research team at Philips Electronics.
Designed to enhance the emotional experience of watching a movie, the emo jacket comprises 64 independent actuators, arranged in 16 groups of 4, across the arms and torso. Eight of these, spaced 6 inches apart and located on each sleeve, can create the illusion of being tapped in several spots.
A pair of AA-size cells is sufficient to keep the jacket juiced for an hour, though the team should be looking at extending this since most movies run for about two hours on average.
Lest you're worried, the garment … Read more
If the results of an online poll are any indication, NASA may soon be naming a new wing of the International Space Station, Node 3, after late-night comedian Stephen Colbert.
According to the Associated Press, write-ins for "Colbert" crushed all of NASA's four poll options, pulling in 230,539 votes; the second-place choice, NASA suggestion "Serenity" (a nod to sci-fi hero Joss Whedon) was more than 40,000 votes behind. Writer Dave Barry also threw his hat in the ring, suggesting "Buddy" as the perfect name for Node 3. But he didn't … Read more
From the week gone by on the directed-energy weapons front: defense contractor Northrop Grumman reported that it got a solid-state laser to fire a beam with a potency of 105.5 kilowatts.
For the ray-gun wing of the military-industrial complex, the 100-kilowatt threshold is a major milestone, marking the entry point to weapons-grade laser weapons. Adding to the appeal is that solid-state lasers are much more compact, and less noxious, than chemical laser systems such as the one in the works for the 747-centric Airborne Laser.
The technical details of Northrop's achievement break down this way, starting with a … Read more