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02 April

The 1st US-Asian Demonstration and Assessment of Micro-Aerial and Unmanned Ground Vehicle Technology was recently held in Agra, India.

There was a competition for micro-aerial unmanned systems involving 12
teams that got the required flight and security clearances. The test missions required flying and ground vehicles to work together to accomplish simulated mine detection and hostage finding, as well as other tasks.

There was a tie for first place between the teams from
MIT, Ecole Nationale de l'Aviation Civile, University of Arizona, and Martin Mueller Engineering. The MIT team led by Professor Nick Roy came in first in two categories including Best Mission Performance, and Best Rotorcraft Performance.
Their vehicle, which I happened to see a while ago, uses eight propellors arranged in a circular upward-facing design.

The event was organized jointly by National Aerospace Laboratories (CSIR), India, Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (DRDO), India and US Army RDECOM (International Technology Center - Pacific).

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
09 May

The invited speakers for the Robotics Science and Systems conference 2008 have been announced in public. They are Jean-Louis Deneubourg , Howard Berg and Luis von Ahn. The general philosophy for RSS invited talks is to get illustrious speakers who are a bit off the beaten track for the robotics audience, yet still relevant.

Howard Berg works on biological systems and his work looks are the way they move. This is relevant and important with respect to wanting to build miniature artificial devices that can move, grabbing ideas from biology. This kind of work is also being done by Ari Requicha at USC, a pioneer in looking explicitly at what he called Molecular Robotics; very small devices that use biological principles.

By Gregory Dudek at | Read (1) or Leave a comment |    
12 May

One of our intrepid people took a sensor node to the beach to collect some data underwater. Unfortunately, there was a leak in the housing. The salt water flooded the computer enclosure. If the computer is off in a case like this, then a quick wash in fresh water and a couple of weeks of drying out is likely to render things good again.

Unfortunately, in this case the person involved had the computer turned on, and left it as it was for over a week. Not a good idea, since salt water is corrosive to electronics. Worse yet, the computer was powered up at the time. Here is is when I got my hands on it.

Happily, some of the parts could be salvaged after being washed, but a lot of the gear was a write-off. That's an inevitable consequence of doing underwater research, but it still hurts.

Here at the tips to dealing with a computer if it gets liquid, especially salt water (or coffee) spilled into it:

- Remove power immediately! Tear off power wires if necessary.

- Pour out as much of the contaminant as possible, quickly.

- Open it up as much as possible, every connector, nook and cranny.

- Wash it thoroughly with clean non-salty water. Rinse well, but don't rub.
Spend up to 10 or 20 minutes rinsing, but not much more to avoid dissolving glues or paper wrappings.

- Resist the desire to use alcohol or other drying agents as they are solvents and can ruin connectors, plastic sleeves and other little organic bits.

- Let it dry afterwards for a LONG time. There might be water under a chip.
It usually needs 2 weeks or more. A dry place helps, but be careful of places
that are too warm, or which have warmth, but also condensation.

We have had some surprising recoveries.

By Gregory Dudek at | Read (7) or Leave a comment |    
13 May

The 2008 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation will be taking place in Pasadena May 19-23, with open technical talks on the 21, 22 and 23rd. We are presenting a paper on Friday at 2:40pm entitled "A Natural Gesture Interface for Operating Robotic Systems" written by my students Anqi Xu, Junaed Sattar and myself.

Early in the week there are various meeting and workshops. With any luck, I'll be able to visit a friend living in Los Angeles.

Fridays's plenary talk is called Brain-controlled Robots by Dr. Mitsuo Kawato, Director of ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories and should be interesting. There has been a lot of work on direct human-machine neural interfaces in the last 5 or 10 years, and ATR is a leader for one exciting class of such research. I'll be sure to at least twitter about it.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
26 May

The deadline for early registration for Robotics Science and Systems (RSS) in Zurich has been extended to June 1st. Student registrations
are only 199 Euros.

RSS is a single-track conference that attempt to cover all areas of robotics research, so it is a good venue for those who wish to catch up or get introduced to the field.

There were 162 submissions this year.
It had a acceptance rate this year of about 24%, which is especially demanding since the calibre of the submissions is very high on average.
Of the accepted papers, about half are accompanied b 30-minute oral presentations and half are accompanied by poster presentations.

There will also be a slate of good workshops. There are also invited talks which tends to be quite eclectic.


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
03 June

I was at the AI/GI/CRV/IS set of conferences last week and took part in a panel discussion on the future of artificial intelligence, along with Jonathan Schaeffer and Kate Larson, and moderated by Kevin Leyton-Brown. We had been charged by Kevin to try and be a bit controversial, and managed get a bit of debate going, especially between Jonathan and myself, although I think we really pretty much agree deep down on the big issues.

One on my more provocative comments was that both the research areas of artificial intelligence and computer vision could be regarded as branches of robotics. This was not meant to be a comment on the relative importance or the areas, but to unify them under a common umbrella. It also does not imply that all AI must deal with embodiment, just as all AI need not deal with cognition. In terms of positioning thee areas within computer science though, I think this is a needed (and correct) grouping consistent with their historical relationship and genesis.

By Gregory Dudek at | Read (1) or Leave a comment |    
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