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Moon-Excavation Robots Face Off 61 61

avishere writes "Student teams designed and built robotic power-lifters to excavate simulated lunar soil (a.k.a. 'regolith') earlier this month, with $750,000 in prizes up for grabs. Excavating regolith, according to NASA, will be an important part of any construction projects or processing of natural resources on the Moon. Interestingly, regolith is especially difficult to dig because its dust particles want to stick together. The whole robotic system has to be sturdy enough to scoop moon dirt and powerful enough to move through the dust while still meeting the weight requirements. The winning excavator, from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, lifted 1,103 pounds within the allotted time, and got its creators a sweet $500,000 for their troubles."

Comment: Re:THE SUN DAMMIT (Score 1) 703 703

NASA already has a major headache every time it wants to launch an RTG (radioisotope thermal generation) powered vehicle. The outcry is typically, "Oh no! What if the thing explodes on launch and spreads radioactive material all over the place!"

You think they could ever get clearance to launch nuclear explosives?!?


A Standardized OS For Robots 184 184

Hugh Pickens writes "The New Scientist reports that at present, all robot software is designed uniquely, even for parts common to all robots but that could be about to change as roboticists have begun to think about what robots have in common and what aspects of their construction can be standardized, resulting in a basic operating system everyone can use. 'It's easier to build everything from the ground up right now because each team's requirements are so different,' says Anne-Marie Bourcier of Aldebaran Robotics but Bourcier sees this changing if robotics advances in a manner similar to personal computing where a common operating system allowed programmers without detailed knowledge of the underlying hardware and file systems to build new applications and build on the work of others. 'Robotics is at the stage where personal computing was about 30 years ago,' says Chad Jenkins of Brown University. 'But at some point we have to come together to use the same resources.' This desire has its roots in frustration, says Brian Gerkey of the robotics research firm Willow Garage. If someone is studying object recognition, they want to design better object-recognition algorithms, not write code to control the robot's wheels. "You know that those things have been done before, probably better," says Gerkey, who hopes to one day see a robot "app store" where a person could download a program for their robot and have it work as easily as an iPhone app."

Comment: Artivle Useless (Score 1) 151 151

Red Whittaker founded Astrobotic Technology - I don't know why this "article" is written as if he's joining the company. And the company does have long-term aspirations for the moon and the Google X Prize allows it to offset the cost of development, assuming they win, of course.

Then the article goes on to say that the "only remaining problem" is handling very low temperatures - while I'm sure it's definitely a problem, I highly doubt that that's the only thing left to be solved.

Bottom Line: Ignore TFA, just read the Astrobotic blog entry.

Minor disclaimer: Dr. Whittaker was my master's thesis advisor.


How Google's High Speed Book Scanner De-Warps Pages 209 209

Hugh Pickens writes "Patent 7,508,978, awarded to Google, shows how the company has already managed to scan more than 7 million books. Google's system uses two cameras and infrared light to automatically correct for the curvature of pages in a book. By constructing a 3D model of each page and then 'de-warping' it afterward, Google can present flat-looking pages online without having to slice books up or mash them onto a flatbed scanner. Stephen Shankland writes that the 'sophistication of the technology illustrates that would-be competitors who want to feature their own digitized libraries won't have a trivial time catching up to Google.' First, a book is placed on a flat surface, while above it, an infrared projector displays a special mazelike pattern onto the pages. Next, two infrared cameras photograph the infrared pattern from different perspectives. 'The images can be stereoscopically combined, using known stereoscopic techniques, to obtain a three-dimensional mapping of the pattern,' according to the patent. 'The pattern falls on the surface of (the) book, causing the three-dimensional mapping of the pattern to correspond to the three-dimensional surface of the page of the book.'"

Comment: No, it's not (Score 2, Informative) 33 33

Actually, no. This is the IXZ-500/650 that they are talking about, which measures pitch and yaw (rotations about the X and Z axes). The IDG-600 which you link to is the older gyro which measures pitch and roll (rotations about the X/Z) axes.

And as far as getting 3-axes goes, pairing one of Invensense's X/Y dual axis gyros with their single axis Z gyro would give you that in a single plane.

For those saying this is the part in the MotionPlus, it's not. That's using the IDG-600 which the parent talks about.

As the article mentions, this is for apps where you only want pitch/yaw and don't care about roll, as in a typical remote control application where you're waving up/down and left/right.


Blue Lights To Reset Internal Clocks 332 332

holy_calamity writes "Researchers at RPI are testing the effects of putting blue LEDs inside cars to keep drivers alert. People driving through the night are much more likely to cause accidents because our circadian rhythms just want to sleep — blue light at around 450nm wavelength can fool them into thinking it's morning and keep them awake."

+ - Space Elevator Teams Compete for NASA Prizes

Hugh Pickens writes: "The University of Saskatchewan's has the first place climb in the Second Annual Space Elevator Games being held this weekend at the Davis County Event Center in Salt Lake City with teams competing for $1,000,000 in NASA prize money. Although the idea of a space elevator has been around for decades, the space technologies needed to support it have yet to be created so the non-profit Spaceward Foundation has hosted an annual competition since 2005, supported by a cash prize from NASA, to build a super-strong tether similar to what would be needed to support a real elevator, or get a robot to climb a suspended ribbon. In the robot climber competition, teams have to get their device to hurtle up a 100-metre-long ribbon, suspended from a crane, at an average speed of two metres per second. The climber must be powered from the ground: strategies include reflecting sunlight from huge mirrors on the ground to solar panels on the climber; shining lasers from the ground up to similar panels on the robot; or firing microwaves up at the climber. Qualifying rounds have been taking place all week, and although high winds and rain have caused delays, four out of eight teams have made it into the finals. There are no outdoor climbs today because of bad weather but that some of the tether competitions will happen indoors later this afternoon."

+ - Carnegie Mellon to build Lunar X-Prize robot

Anonymous Coward writes: "Google's Lunar X-Prize already has a prominent entry, William Whittaker, a researcher from Carnegie Mellon University said that he will be assembling a team to development a robot that will be be competing for the $20 million grand prize. According to this story, Whittaker has some unfair advantage, as he has developed a pretty cool lunar rover for NASA that "can find concentrations of hydrogen, possibly water and other volatile chemicals on the moon that could be mined to produce fuel, water and air that are essential for supporting lunar outposts." The Lunar X-Prize runs until the end of 2012 and Carnegie Mellon's announcement could be a first indication that reserachers are taking this challenge very seriously."

+ - Carnegie Mellon Building Lunar Prospecting Rover->

jkua writes: Researchers in the Field Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute unveiled to the press today a prototype lunar rover called Scarab, which is being developed with NASA funding to seek out hydrogen and other volatiles in the permanently dark craters at the poles of the moon, where they are suspected to have been deposited by cometary impacts. Scarab will carry a drill currently being developed by the Northern Centre For Advanced Technology which will be capable of taking 1 meter length cores of lunar regolith, using an adjustable suspension that will allow the rover to bring the drill to the ground for coring operations, yet still be able to carry the drill over obstacles while traversing the rough lunar terrain. For power, since there is no sunlight in the polar craters, the rover will carry a radioisotope source being developed at NASA's Glenn Research Center which will provide approximately 175W of electrical power. Due to these power constraints, the rover operates very slowly, traveling at a top speed of 10cm/s and will use low-powered light striping sensors that are also being developed at Carnegie Mellon. This project is being developed separately from CMU's Google Lunar X-Prize effort.
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