Entries : Category [ Travel ]
Entries about places we visit, or ideas about travel
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02 April

Just back from Orlando where I gave a colloquium talk at the University of
Central Florida (I talked about the AQUA robot and some of the vision
algorithms we are developing for it). [This was a second trip after a botched visit recently.] There is a very active computer
vision group there that is really
agressive and productive with many interesting projects on the go. Among other things
they just got a nice DARPA contract for a fleet of flying air vehicles (UGV's) to complement the one they already have.

I took three hours off and made a quick trip to the Kennedy Space Center on the coast.
They have several old rockets and shuttle mock-ups on display. It's kind of interesting, but I am not sure it's worth 2 hours driving and the $35 admission price if you onyl are left with a
single hour to visit. On the other hand, there are various included movies (including IMAX) that I wasn't able to see, and they seem to be key parts of the site. A much more reasonable plan is to take the bus tour(s) of the entire site, but that is both time consuming and requires advance reservations. I did that years ago and found it very worthwhile, plus there is interesting wildlife to see occasionally (such as alligators).

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
21 November

Remote control device carries live ammo

Robots are on patrol in IRAQ, and they are currently armed (i.e carrying loaded machine guns). They are not actually autonomous, but remote controlled, so I am a bit ambivalent about really calling them robots. They do carry M249 SAW machine guns made by Fabrique Nationale US (the US arm of a Belgian company [provenance corrected thanks to a comment, below]). They also have the capacity to carry grenade launchers and other product-dispensing apparatus. The robot does not seem to be the most stable one I've seen, and it uses pretty conventional drive mechanisms, but it's obviously very robust. In many ways the actual robot technology itself seems somewhat dated compared to what the research community is working on, but the application in the field is almost unique. The vehicle is made by Foster-Miller, and is part of a package called SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Direct- action System). Foster Miller is a large company that has supplied robots such as this for bomb disposal (EOD) application for some time.

(Note: this is not the same
model used in IRAQ.)

According to Foster Miller the robot was "... evaluated by the 5th Special Forces in Iraq and three systems have completed evaluation with the 3rd Infantry Division and [were] deployed to Iraq in 2007."

The M249 machine gun is fully automatic, has a maximum range of about 1000 meters (3281 feet). When loaded with the "preferred" ammunition of M855 Ball (whatever that means), it is suitable for use against light materiel targets and personnel. The military expects to use it in the near future to dispense deadly force. When this happens, it will be a dangerous precedent, but one that was obviously inevitable and which is a natural extension of existing technologies (such as drone aircraft).

By Gregory Dudek at | Read (2) or Leave a comment |    
08 March

There is a contest going on with Iceland Airlines, who have a new service out of Toronto. [ As of March 17th, 2008, the contest is now finished. I won the free trip.]

If I can get lot of people to click on my photo, I will win a free trip to Iceland with my wife and kids. This would be great since she has been wanting to go there for a decade or more, and all my professional travel is universally to warm destinations. (And it's too costly for us to just fly there for fun.)

Help me out. Visit


and click the image of me with two pseudo-Icelandic girls (who are actually both from Toronto), as shown below. Pretty please!

Gregory Dudek and Icelandic Swans

Warning: The iceland air web site will require an email address and name.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
12 May

Last week I gave an invited lecture at the Annual Huggins Science Seminar at Acadia University. My talk dealt with the current state of robotics for outdoor environments.

The Huggins Science Seminar is an event named after Charles Huggins, the Nobel prize winner who attended Acadia for his undergraduate degree. The seminar series brings in senior high school students from around the province to hear lectures on Science. The lectures are, by and large, delivered by scientists who are nominated, selected, and flow in for the lectures. I was impressed by the calibre of the students and the coordination of the whole event, and had a chance to meet Spencer Barrett over breakfast, a Canada Research Chair in Botany from the University of Toronto, who also gave a talk there.

Acadia is in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. It's a small town and very picturesque, being located right on the Bay of Fundy. I wish my trip had allowed more time to do some sight seeing or to contact local friends.

Wolfville NS in the evening
Wolfville NS in the evening

By Gregory Dudek at | 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 |    
01 March

Last week I was invited to give a talk at a robotics events for college students in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I spoke about our work on underwater robotics, with a bit of extra emphasis on the system design part of the story, and a little bit of connectivity to robotics as a while. Since many of the students had Spanish as a first language, i used a lot of visuals and tried to speak a bit more slowly than usual (which was probably only partially successful). The students were very enthusiastic and we had an especially good question and answer session in the early evening, moderated (and translated) very effectively by Professor Jose Ruiz Ascencio.

As a bonus, I got to visit the central square of Cuernavaca and also take a short side trip to Xochicalco, which is a major archaeological site just 30 minutes outside the city. Xochicalco was both a major trading site in the 0-1200 AD time frame, as well as a significant astronomical observatory at that time.



Jonathan Espinoza, Greg Dudek,
and Jose Ruiz Ascencio


Xochicalco Quetzalcoatl (feathered snake) pyramid



Cuernavaca main square

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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