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Human-like NASA Space Robot Goes Mobile with Leg, Wheels
| Human-like NASA Space Robot Goes Mobile with Leg, Wheels|
Human-like hands, fingers and even television camera eyes have been hallmarks of NASA’s Robonaut, but recent work seeks to give the nimble robot legs, or at least a leg, and even wheels.
Robonaut took its first steps recently during tests at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, using a single “space leg” to move around the outside of a simulated Space Station. Other recent tests put the humanoid robot on wheels, a Segway scooter to be exact, and let it take to the road.
In either configuration, Robonaut’s head, torso, mechanical arms and hands maintain their ability to use the same space tools as humans. In the tests using its “space leg,” Robonaut commuted like a futuristic construction worker hand-over-hand outside a mock spacecraft. Aboard the gryo-stabilized wheels, it glided from one test station to another as its descendants might someday on the surface of the Moon or Mars.
Tests with the leg confirmed that Robonaut could climb around the outside of a spacecraft using handholds and plant its foot at a work site to make repairs or install parts. NASA’s goal is to build robots that could ‘live’ on the outside of spacecraft, ready for routine maintenance or emergencies. Humans inside the spacecraft would operate Robonaut with wireless controls.
The wheeled tests provided initial proof of concept for planetary Centaurs that merge humanoid robots with rovers. Those tests put Robonaut through its paces while mounted on a Segway Robotic Mobility Platform. They showed that a single teleoperator could simultaneously control both the robot’s mobility and dexterity with a wireless control system.
The climbing tests were a significant step in Robonaut’s development, proving the system’s capability for climbing, stabilizing and handling extravehicular activity (EVA) tools and interfaces in the space environment. The test featured a battery-powered, wireless Robonaut system mounted to an air-bearing sled, floating on a cushion of air, to eliminate friction and emulate the sensations experienced by astronauts working in zero gravity. Robonaut climbed using EVA handrails and plugged its stabilizing ‘space leg’ into a standard space station WIF (Worksite Interface Fixture) socket, while its operators drove Robonaut’s multiple limbs using innovative new telepresence controls.
“This test proved Robonaut can be operated wirelessly using an interchangeable base for different stabilization and locomotion systems — and it did it in a frictionless, space-like environment,” said Test Conductor Dr. Robert Ambrose of JSC’s Automation, Robotics and Simulation Division. “These are all key capabilities needed for the development of future ‘EVA squads’ that leverage the combined talents of humans and robots to make vast improvements in spacewalk productivity.”
The Robonaut Project, which Ambrose leads, is a collaborative effort with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and has been under development at JSC for several years. There are two Robonauts, each with highly dexterous hands that can work with the same tools humans use. Operators remotely control movements of the Robonauts’ heads, limbs, hands and twin cameras through a combination of virtual-reality interfaces and verbal commands, relayed either through dedicated cabling or wireless systems.
In order to move about in a zero-gravity environment, a robot must be able to climb by itself, using gaits that smoothly manage its momentum and that minimize contact forces while providing for safety in the event of an emergency. To access worksites aboard the International Space Station and future spacecraft, robots must interact with spacewalking aids designed for humans including tethers, handrails and work anchors.
“The tests were very successful,” Ambrose said. “The Robonaut team learned which climbing maneuvers are more feasible than others, and tested automated software safety reactions using the robot’s built-in force sensors. We also identified new opportunities for using these sensors in semi-automatic modes that will help operators across short (1-10 second) time delays. Our team will continue to tackle these challenges as NASA looks forward to applying human-robotic interaction to the tasks associated with returning to the Moon and going on to Mars.”
News about Robotics
Roboclimber prevents landslides
The Roboclimber robot can secure slopes without endangering human lives. It has been constructed using expertise and technology from Europe’s space programmes. Weighing 3800 kg, with four legs and with a square base of 2 metres by 2.5 metres, Roboclimber is one of the largest robots in the world, yet still very agile and easily controllable. The on-board control system includes algorithms based upon ESA advanced methodology for controlling satellites in space.
Cornell researchers build a robot that can reproduce
One of the dreams of both science fiction writers and practical robot builders has been realized, at least on a simple level: Cornell University researchers have created a machine that can build copies of itself.
Admittedly the machine is just a proof of concept — it performs no useful function except to self-replicate — but the basic principle could be extended to create robots that could replicate or at least repair themselves while working in space or in hazardous environments, according to Hod Lipson, Cornell assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and computing and information science, in whose lab the robots were built and tested.
News about the Future
“Animal theme parks represent a new model for pet sales, and a serious strategy that envisions the market a century from now.” Makoto Suematsu, President of MK. Suematsu, Inc.
“Dog Forest” opened in 2003 in the idyllic setting of Izu-Kogen, 100 kilometers from Tokyo. Instead of being just another theme park, Dog Forest also breeds and sells dogs. Before being turned over to their owners, puppies receive their necessary vaccinations and live with their mother for the first three months to allow their health to stabilize.
“The reason that we located Dog Forest so far from Tokyo is that we don’t want people buying these living creatures on a whim. I don’t think that anyone willing to travel all the way to Izu is going to be an impulse buyer.”
A spiritual connection
by The Economist
Technology and society: Around the world, mobile phones seem to have a spiritual or supernatural dimension that other forms of technology lack.
THOSE who go into the priesthood are said to have a calling from God. Now the purveyors of faith the world over are using mobile phones to give believers a call in a more literal sense. Catholics can sign up for daily inspirational text messages from the pope simply by texting “Pope On” to a special number (53141 in Ireland, for example). The Irish Jesuits offer a service called Sacred Space, accessible via smartphone, which encourages users to spend ten minutes reflecting on a specially chosen scripture for the day. In Taiwan, limited-edition phones made by Okwap, a local handset-maker, offer Matsu wallpaper and religious ringtones, along with a less tangible feature – each one has been specially blessed at a temple to Matsu. And Muslims around the world can use the F7100 handset, launched last July by LG of South Korea, both to remind them of prayer times (the phone has an alarm system that works in 500 cities) and to find the direction of Mecca using the handset’s built-in “Mecca indicator” compass.
Next Event: Wednesday, April 27
the future of Robotics
Wednesday, June1, 2005
reception: 18:30-19:30, conference: 19:30-22:15
location: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Prins Bernhardplein 200, Amsterdam [next to Amstelstation], free parking.
Léon Rosenkrantz: AIBO as an intelligent robot
Bart de Boer: Robotics for AI and AI for Robotics
Christoph Bartneck: Social Robots
Notes Towards a Literacy for the Digital Age
Notes Towards a Literacy for the Digital Age
by Milverton Wallace
The kid enters the coffee shop and is greeted excitedly by her friends. They jostle to exchange high fives, knuckle greetings and finger snaps with her.
What is the cause of their admiration? Her Rocaway jeans? Her high tan Jimmy Choo boots? Her Armani sun-glasses? Her Karl Lagerfeld jacket? Nah! It is the gleaming silver object dangling from a pair of white wires plugged into her ears.
It is an iPod, the must-have digital gadget of today’s young people. With this tiny digital audio player Apple stole Napster’s thunder and replaced the CD player as the cutting-edge portable music player of choice.
But if you think this is just another device for playing pre-recorded music, think again. Within two years of the iPod’s debut, developers had created software to allow anyone to produce audio content — words and music — for it and other portable digital players. This technology, known as podcasting, turns consumers into producers, and every wannabe DJ and talk-show host into broadcasters. It is a distribution channel that plugs directly into the hippest, hottest communication network on the planet.
In advanced industrial countries, and increasingly in less-developed regions, social life is being digitised. Cheap camera phones and videocams allow everyday activities to be recorded and stored on personal computers or online services; more and more conversations are conducted via email, IM and SMS; private thoughts, opinions and reflections on public affairs or private passions are instantly posted on weblogs. Because they are in digital form, all these different types of record — moving images, photographs, sounds and texts — can be stored on computers. And the Internet makes it possible for all of this to be shared with family, friends and strangers.
Welcome to the agora of the 21st century, a space where a diverse array of digital modes of communication intersect in cyberspace — email, instant messaging, text messaging, multimedia messaging, weblogging, audioblogging, moblogging, mobcasting, podcasting.
Like it or not, this is the new cultural landscape for learning, entertainment, and communicating with each other. And it is being constructed without consultation with, or permission from, regulatory authorities or self-appointed gatekeepers.
All well and good, but what is the point of all this digital g-soup when school-leavers cannot spell and do sums, or believe Winston Churchill was an insurance salesman? Relax. This is not the end of literacy, just a groping towards a new kind of literacy, which is capable of fulfilling the knowledge acquisition, informational and cultural needs of the digital age.
What are the competencies that should be included in any model of literacy for the digital age?
First, you should get used to interacting with screen-based devices for sending, receiving and viewing digital information because this is the way one interacts with the interface — the collection of words, icons, buttons, menus, and other symbols — connecting the user to the database which stores the data and the network which transmits it. To interact with your computers, mobile phones, PDAs, media players etc requires that you have the knowledge to understand these symbols and the tactile skills to manipulate them to achieve a desired purpose e.g., open a document, save a file, view a picture, play a song, send a message.
Second, you must be able to create a document, store it and retrieve it at a later date. By “document” is meant any information element or object in digital form — words, pictures, sounds, still and moving images.
Third, you need to acquire some knowledge of the theory and practice of hypermedia , (Nielsen 1995) because it is in this space that information is communicated on the screens of computers and digital media devices. A paper document allows only text and two-dimensional images, while radio and television have been completely linear media. The hypermedia document, now the standard form in which information is displayed and communicated, is changing all that. By allowing interaction with non-linear, multi-dimensional documents to take place, it has radically altered the practice of reading and writing.
Robo sapiens: Evolution of a New Species
by Peter Menzel (Photographer), Faith D’Aluisio
If you believe the children are our future, you’re only half right. Photographer Peter Menzel and journalist Faith D’Aluisio traveled around the world interviewing researchers who want to jump-start our evolution by designing and building electrical and mechanical extensions of ourselves – robots. Their book, Robo Sapiens, takes its title from the notion that our species might somehow merge with our creations, either literally or symbiotically. The photography is brilliant, showing the endearing and creepy sides of the robots and roboticists and feeling like stills from unmade science-fiction films. D’Aluisio’s interviews are insightful and often very funny, as when she calls MIT superstar Rodney Brooks on his statement that we ought not “overanthropomorphize” people. Brooks is an interesting study. Having shaken up the robotics and artificial-intelligence fields with his elimination of high-level intelligence and dedication to tiny, insectoid, built-from-the-ground-up robots, he now works on large, human-mimicking machines. But hundreds of other researchers, in Japan, Europe, and the United States, are working on various aspects of machine behavior, from the eerily lifelike robotic faces of Fumio Hara and Alvaro Villa to the monkeylike movement of Brachiator III; each of them casts a bit of light on the future of their field in their short interviews. Though it’s clear that we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for a robot butler, Robo Sapiens suggests that much cooler – and stranger – events are coming soon. – Rob Lightner
Radical Trends Guide
Radical Trends Guide
The hidden desires of tomorrows markets
David Bosshart, Karin Frick and Stefan Kaiser, GDI
The GDI, a leading Swiss Think Tank, has been observing and analysing new developments and trends in retail, society and consumption for more than 40 years.
Why radical trends?
Major developments are preceded by speculations that slowly become part of our everyday awareness and take on a semblance of reality. The stories that circulate about the technology, economy, society and people of tomorrow act as ‚memes‘ that take root and spread in human consciousness. Memes are ideas and secret desires that propagate in society like a kind of ‚cultural gene‘ that direct the imagination of researchers, developers, investors, politicians and consumers. In this connection, mass media and, in particular, films accelerate and amplify these trends by anchoring expectations of the future in our collective sub-consciousness.
No longer is anything impossible – everything is already there
The future frequently arrives faster than expected. In 1996, one of the world‘s most renowned biologists, Lee Silver of Princeton University, wrote that it is „impossible“ to clone mammals via cell-nucleus transfer – not simply difficult but impossible. As fate would have it, his book had not even reached the bookshops before scientists of the Roslin Institute in Scotland announced that they had succeeded in cloning ‚Dolly‘ the sheep. Only eight years later, in the spring of 2004, South Korean researchers obtained stem cells from a clone embryo for the first time. This experiment will change the world radically and shows clearly how even experts tend to underestimate future possibilities. Anyone in this situation who does not use his or her sense of possibility to reconnoitre the impossible is not a genuine realist.
Initially, the future is the realm of visionaries. They extend our intellectual horizon by staking out new areas of mental exploration. In many cases, major developments are preceded by speculations that slowly become part of our everyday awareness and take on a semblance of reality. For example, many of the technologies of the future created by George Orwell when he wrote ‚1984‘ in 1949 have long since passed into ‚normal‘ aspects of modern life. Biometric passports, spy satellites, intelligent security cameras, complete e-mail monitoring, hypertrophic databases with private data represent a set of tools that is no less perfect than the facilities available to Orwell‘s ‚Big Brother‘. Obviously, even the most depressing visions of the future have the power to stimulate innovations and inspire investors.
Memes power collective perception
The best way to predict the future is to invent it because the visions of the future created by research laboratories, think tanks, science-fiction authors and other visionaries not only form a matrix for the social perception of tomorrow‘s world but also open up the associated opportunities. The stories that circulate about the technology, economy, society and people of tomorrow act as ‚memes‘ that take root and spread in human consciousness. Memes are thoughts and ideas that propagate in society like a kind of ‚cultural gene‘. Their discoverer, Richard Dawkins, defined them as a „unit of cultural transmission“ (Dawkins 1978), while Pulitzer prize-winner Douglas Hoftstadter coined the term ‚ideosphere‘ for the environment in which memes propagate, interact, adapt and develop (Hoftstadter 1985). The futures that come to prominence are chosen on the level of collective cultural imagination. Memes vie for people‘s attention and time, as well as a place in their memory, in much the same way as radio, television or newspapers. They work their way ‚egoistically‘ into the material world and use it for their own purposes.
Thus, the future belongs to those who tell the best stories about the future – and science fiction is the name of the game. For example, in the IT sector where CEOs of leading companies love presenting themselves as visionaries of a technically improved future. They point the way to an electronic land of milk and honey with intelligent refrigerators, thinking shoes, autonomous cars and online physicians. They advertise with futuristic design studies for the household appliances of tomorrow and carry us off into the future in the grand Hollywood manner. The IT sector knows how to tell stories of the ‚digital age‘ so that people see them as reality. Although the collapse of the New Economy and abortive strategic developments have put a damper on the exaggerated expectations of high-tech promises, these events have had little impact on the generally high level of acceptance for new technologies. The better stories keep alive the belief in an information technology that will ensure an easier life in tomorrow‘s world.
In comparison to the IT sector, representatives of the biotechnology sphere are more restrained in their predictions for the future. Their campaigns are designed to educate and breakdown fears on the basis of scientific facts. The argumentation is more rational and appeals less to the emotions. By contrast, the opponents of biotechnology employ pictures and stories that have a lasting impact. Thus, a modified picture or a new word can suffice to turn an abstract DNA model into a feeling that triggers social nightmares and awakens fears: it is hardly possible to associate positive ideas with images of a future dominated by ‚Frankenstein food‘, ‚terminator genes‘, ‚monster tomatoes‘ and ‚super weeds‘. Against this background, MIT economist Lester Thurow compares the widespread angst created by the notion of genetically- modified plants with the ancient fear of sea monsters that stopped us from discovering America for centuries despite the existence of the maritime technology required (Thurow 2003). Today, the fear of biotech monsters is preventing the exploration of this highly promising field of economic activity and the consequences for Europe are likely to be serious: the USA, not to mention many other less regulated nations, are heading for the unknown land of biotechnology alone and, after conquering it, will have a lead of fifty years over the ‚old world‘. Besides the cultural differences, Thurow‘s example underscores the significance of promising stories to which a technology can harness itself. Thus, without effective memes, the benefits of the previously acclaimed ‚biotech revolution‘ will bypass Europe in the foreseeable future.
Stories steer the imagination for new marketsIn this connection, the effectiveness of such stories depends not on how true, probable or accurate they are. Stories about the future are not predictions in the generally accepted sense but intellectual experiments that aim to open up new possibilities and future markets. They explore what could become reality and, by directing the imagination of researchers, developers, investors, companies and politicians, give them the optimism needed to create new markets. After all, anyone who doesn‘t believe in the future is hardly likely to take entrepreneurial risks. Thus, memes are both stimulating and infectious ideas that spread within society like a virus.
Ideas of this kind need not be positive to be effective. The negative utopias and catastrophe scenarios that have always dominated the world of science fiction help us conquer our collective fears of the new and unknown. They warn against erroneous developments and unfounded, exaggerated expectations, and invite us to change course or resist undesirable developments. Thus, the gloomy prognoses made by the Club of Rome in ‚The Limits to Growth‘ at the beginning of the seventies triggered a sustained debate about the environment throughout the world and prevented – for the time being at least – the catastrophes predicted. Last but not least, memes, especially the gloomy ones, are increasingly the driving force behind new, future-oriented markets. The more people feel their personal safety and health is threatened, the more they are prepared to invest in prevention and security.
Mass culture programmes our expectations
Nowadays, collective expectations are dictated to a great extent by mass culture and, in particular, films. Via the media, images are concentrated into extremely influential and frequently repeated stories that reflect our hopes and fears with regard to the future, that stimulate our imaginations and influence our investment and consumption decisions. Accordingly, mainstream cinema is an excellent tool for analysing memes: at an early stage, the cinema presents new technologies and prognoses that are still at the laboratory stage. At the same time, it accelerates and amplifies these development trends by anchoring expectations of the future in our collective sub-consciousness. In this respect, the pattern is always the same: we unconsciously accept what we have been shown on the screen as real and existent – regardless of whether it was positive, negative, a gadget, a natural event or a form of social reality – as being possible. Consumer expectations are programmed in this way.
Many everyday expressions, such as „I‘ll beam the file over to you“, referring to immediate transport via the internet, also have their roots in film fantasies – in this case, the most radical vision of mobility, beaming as used in ‚Star Trek‘ – as do the trends to gate communities, strong or weak roles for women depending on social needs and the political yearning of Californian voters for a ‚Terminator‘ whose core area of competence holds out the promise of a more orderly society. In this connection, our problem solutions are not oriented towards the new but towards models and stories that we are already familiar with.
Accordingly, cinema memes function in the same way as myths. And, in common with secularised myths, they can also be programmed. A recent example of this is ‚ The Day After Tomorrow‘ (Roland Emmerich, USA 2004), a climate-catastrophe film against the policy of the Bush administration, the scenes of which aim, „to leave a lasting impression on the audience“ (Emmerich). It is the very exaggeration of such images and stories that creates a matrix of what might be possible and gives it a toehold in a culture. A good example of this is the pessimistic visions of society that permeate practically all science-fiction films made in the eighties and nineties: long before the sociologist Ulrich Beck produced an academic foundation for making a gloomy prediction about the future of Europe with his formula for the ‚Brazilianisation‘ of society, those concerned had already seen specific parts of his argument in the cinema and on television.
A guide to the secret fantasies of the market makers
This Radical Trends Guide provides an insight into the dreams, hopes and fears of the leading modern prophets. It reviews the most radical ideas from science and fiction for solutions to problems real and imagined, and explores the theoretical destinations of the most important trends that influence the dynamism of business and society today. What are the most extreme developments that the main intellectual forces from the various disciplines can imagine? Where are their imaginations taking them and which new markets will this ignite? And what comes thereafter? What other or opposing develop¬ments are conceivable? Which stories have the greatest power of attraction, the most sex appeal, the most powerful influence on our collective sub-consciousness? Our aim is to create a set of tools that will prevent us underestimating the future so much. In each chapter, the ‚Radical trends‘ section presents the various fantasies and stories created to solve problems in that particular sector. Parallel to this, samples taken from the research and development pipeline show how far or near we are from the radical trends (margins). Examples from the culture of the masses then indicate how widespread they have become and help interpret our collective dreams (‚Science fiction and memes‘ section). Beaming as meme on MTV: recent Beastie Boys video ‚The Day After Tomorow‘ (2004)
Club of Amsterdam Agenda
|Club of Amsterdam Season 2004/2005|
|.June 1, 2005||.the future of Robotics|
|.June 29, 2005||.the future of Philosophy|
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