Korean Robot Makers Walk Off With $2 Million Prize

via www.livescience.com

via www.livescience.com

A team of roboticists from the

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

 claimed a $2 million prize on Saturday that was offered by a Pentagon research agency for developing a mobile robot capable of operating in hazardous environments.

Twenty-five teams of university and corporate roboticists competed for the prize, which was first given in 2012 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The robots were graded on their ability to complete eight tasks, including driving a vehicle, opening a door, operating a portable drill, turning a valve and climbing stairs, all in the space of an hour.

The Korean victory is a validation of the work of JunHo Oh, the designer of the Hubo family of humanoid robots that he has developed since 2002. The winning Hubo is a clever machine that can kneel and drive on wheels in addition to walking.

The second-place winner, the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., received $1 million, and the third-place winner, Tartan Rescue, from the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., received $500,000.

Despite clear progress since a trial event in Florida in 2013, the robots remain decades away from the science-fiction feats seen in movies like “Ex Machina” and “Chappie.”

Instead, the robots seemed more like an array of electronic and hydraulic contraptions that, in some cases, walked in a lumbering fashion on two or four legs and, in other cases, rolled on tracks or wheels. Some of the machines weighed more than 400 pounds. They were equipped with sensors and cameras to permit remote control.

On Friday, the first day of the Robotics Challenge, it took until 2:30 in the afternoon for the first robot to successfully complete the course, seven and a half hours after the competition began. Frequently, the machines would stand motionless for minutes at a time while they waited for wireless connections with their controllers to improve. Darpa degraded the wireless links on purpose to create the uneven communications that would simulate a crisis situation.

Reporters were once again left grasping for appropriate metaphors to describe the slow-motion calisthenics performed by the menagerie of battery-powered machines. Most agreed that “like watching grass grow” was no longer the best description, and Gill Pratt, the Darpa official in charge of the competition, suggested that it had risen to the level of “watching a golf match.”

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A simple solution for big data

These are images used to test the algorithm. Credit: SISSA

A SISSA algorithm published in Science simplifies the categorization of data

Experts use the expression big data to indicate huge amounts of information, such as those (photos, videos, texts, but also other more technical types of data) shared at any time by billions of people on computers, smartphones and other electronic devices. The present-day scenario offers unprecedented perspectives: tracking flu epidemics, monitoring road traffic in real time, or handling the emergency of natural disasters, for example. For us to be able to use these huge amounts of data, we have to understand them and before that we need to categorize them in an effective, fast and automatic manner. One of the most commonly used systems is a series of statistical techniques called Cluster Analysis (CA), which is able to group data sets according to their “similarity”.

Two researchers from SISSA devised a type of CA based on simple and powerful principles, which proved to be very efficient and capable of solving some of the most typical problems encountered in this type of analysis.

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Space-tested Robot Inspires New Medicine and Manufacturing Uses

Project engineer Roger Rovekamp demonstrates the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton for resistive exercise. Image Credit: Robert Markowitz

Humans doing difficult, repetitive tasks or those who need assistance with movement may soon get a helping hand – literally – thanks to robotic technology developed to serve astronauts in space.

Robonaut, a human-like robot designed by NASA and General Motors (GM), has been on the International Space Station since February 2011. Researchers have been testing the robot’s ability to perform certain tasks to free up human crew time and energy.

“The idea is to help astronauts with dull, dangerous, or dirty tasks,” said Ron Diftler, Ph.D., Robonaut project manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The ultimate goal is for the robot to perform tasks outside the station, saving the human crew the time and risk of some extravehicular activity, commonly known as spacewalks.

During its development, this astronaut helper sparked ideas for other uses of its technology. These additional uses weren’t apparent when Robonaut was first envisioned but came about through various partnerships and observations along the way.

One inspiration generated the X1, an exoskeleton that could help astronauts remain healthy in space. On Earth, it could restore limb motion for those affected by paraplegia or stroke. To create X1, NASA partnered with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), which had already developed a lower-extremity exoskeleton to assist those with paraplegia.

“We combined IHMC’s expertise in walking algorithms related to gait pathology with the NASA robotics team’s expertise in actuation and hardware and created a more compact, more capable exoskeleton,” said Christopher Beck, robotics engineer, Oceaneering Space Systems.

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