An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: If it wasn't already clear that Elon Musk has considered virtually every aspect of what it would take to colonize Mars, it is now. As part of his Reddit AMA session, the SpaceX founder has revealed that his vision of a permanent colony would entail a huge number of "miner/tunneling droids." The robots would build large volumes of underground pressurized space for industrial activity, leaving geodesic domes (made of carbon fiber and glass) for everyday living. As a resident, you might never see the 'ugly' side of settling the Red Planet. Musk also explained how his colony would get to the point where it can reliably refuel spacecraft all by itself. Dragon capsules would serve as scouts, helping find the "best way" to extract water for fuel reactions. An unmanned Heart of Gold spaceship would then deliver the basics for a propellant plant, while the first crewed mission would finish that plant. After that, SpaceX would double the number of flights between each ideal Earth-Mars rendezvous (every 26 months) until the colony can reliably produce fuel by itself. Oh, and don't worry about today's Falcon 9 rockets being consigned to the history books. Although the main booster for interplanetary travel will "have an easier time of things," Musk believes that the final iteration of Falcon 9 (Block 5) could be used "almost indefinitely" if properly maintained. Production on Block 5 should fly in the next 6 to 8 months.
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savuporo writes "The two days of DARPA's humanoid robotics challenge are now over. 16 teams entered in three categories — custom built humanoid, DARPA supplied Atlas platform, and a non-humanoid form — and competed in eight different tasks. The all-Japanese SCHAFT team scored 27 out of 32 maximum points, followed by IHMC Robotics and Tartan Rescue, with 20 and 18 points. The tasks included challenges like driving a vehicle, climbing ladders and walls, using handheld tools to cut through walls, etc. All robots had a mix of autonomy and teleoperated controls to accomplish the tasks. Full details on scores can be found here. The eight teams that scored highest will get continued funding from DARPA to compete in the final challenge in 2014. Two NASA teams also entered, and the JPL-built non-humanoid RoboSimian placed 5th, whereas the JSC built and touted 'Valkyrie' came out of competition with zero points. Team SCHAFT and Boston Dynamics (building the Atlas platform) were recently acquired by Google."
ptresset writes with a snippet from Wired: "Pop along to the Tenderpixel art space in Soho this month, and you could grab a drawing of your mug, sketched by one of Patrick Tresset's robotic arms. The sketching bot is called Paul. It starts off the exhibition by scanning the room and looking for people with its motorised eye. When it spots a human face, it uses an edge detection technique called Gabor filter (which is modeled after cells in a human's visual cortex) to pick out the salient lines."
Andre writes "The 6th annual RoboGames were held in San Francisco last weekend. They welcomed a horde of 400 non-sentient, metallic warriors to do violent battle — against each other, of course. This army of remote-controlled and autonomous combat robots, along with walking humanoids, soccer 'bots, sumo 'bots and even androids that do kung-fu, was put to the test. Among the big winners was Canadian-made 'Ziggy' — one of the combatants in the 340-pound, super-heavyweight division (the biggest division) — who took home a gold medal for the fourth year in a row. The bionic brute proved its might against its final opponent, the 'Juggernaut,' by tossing it around like an empty pop can (and promptly making a mockery of its name) using a pneumatic flipper. Ziggy's newly-improved weapon results in unwanted (but totally cool) free-flying lessons for its opponents. At full power, the flipper can launch an opponent to the arena ceiling."
Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers have discovered that ordinary cellulose is a piezoelectric and smart material that can flap when exposed to an electric field. ScienceNOW reports that electricity can give life to cellophane. When you put a very thin layer of gold on each side of cellophane, and that you apply electric current to the gold layers, one positive, one negative, the cellophane curved toward the positive side. If you switch the voltage fast enough, the cellophane starts to act as a wing. So it should be possible to use it to build lightweight flying robots carrying cameras, microphones or sensors for surveillance missions. Read more for additional references and pictures about this electroactive paper (EAPap)."
Roland Piquepaille writes "The first International Robot Games, or ROBOlympics, organized by the Robotics Society of America, will take place on March 20th and 21st, 2004 in San Francisco, California. There will be competition for combat and non-combat robots, a World Cup Soccer game, and even a robo-triathlon. More than 400 robots are registered for this robotics competition. And the winners will receive hard cash. Nature tells us the story in 'Robolympics contestants shoot for gold.' More details and references are available in this overview which also includes a very nice photo of two robots, the larger one either fixing or rocking the smaller one. And for your information, ROBOlympics is not sold out. So if you are near San Francisco, it's still time to buy tickets. They cost $15 to $25. Entrance is free for children under 7."
lperdue writes "One of the big problems with making robots more in tune with their environment is the lack of a "skin" with many, many embedded sensors --like we have as humans. Now, New Scientist is reporting that electrical engineers Sigurd Wagner and Stephanie Lacour from Princeton University have developed g a prototype using corrugated gold foil in an elastic matrix that could do the job."
Drath writes "Researchers at Purdue University are conducting a study by placing Sony Aibo robots in a Lafayette, IN nursing home. They want to see if robots can make people happy. Lets hope they have robot insurance." Makes you wonder if the AARP will have a position paper on this. Hope when I get old(er) I'll have gold plated killer robots around for my entertainment. pycananthemum also was kind enough sent in a link to the Project page.
Professor Pollack put a lot of time and thought into answering your questions, and it shows. What follows is a "deeper than we expected" series of comments about Artificial Intelligence and intellectual property distribution from one of the acknowledged leaders in both fields.