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NASA's Mars Program Now Includes 2020 Rover

It's been just four months since Curiosity landed on Mars, and NASA is already planning for her successor. At a press conference held in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco yesterday, the agency officially announced its intention to land a next-generation version of the rover on Mars in 2020.

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CyPhy Works Exits Stealth Mode with 'Unlimited Duration' Surveillance Drones

Ex-iRobot founder Helen Greiner's new company, CyPhy Works, has been doing something secret involving drones for the last several years, and as of today, we've found out what it is: UAVs that can operate for "unlimited" amounts of time. It's not some sort of fancy fuel cell or wireless power transfer technology; rather, if you look closely at the image above, you'll see that CyPhy's UAVs are using a new solution that is actually very old: an unbroken, continuous cable that connects the UAV to its ground station at all times.

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Georgia Tech Robots Learn Deceptive Behaviors from Squirrels

We know, we know, robots being deceptive sounds like a bad thing. Potentially a very bad thing. But the fact is, deception is everywhere, and for good reason: being deceptive is often the most efficient and effective way to protect yourself from harm. Deception is by no means unique to humans, either: animals are masters at deceiving other animals (and us), and Ron Arkin's group at Georgia Tech has been teaching robots to learn deception from a pro: the squirrel.

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Underwater Robots Know Where They're Going

Twisty underwater ravines and seas with moving icebergs provide tricky terrain for an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to navigate; that’s why underwater vehicles sent to investigate such areas rely on remote piloting from shipboard.

That won’t be necessary for much longer, according to engineers from Stanford University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). They have developed a system that allows an AUV to consider both an existing terrain map and its own view of obstacles in its path as it “flies” over the sea floor.

Stanford doctoral student Sarah Houts took an existing terrain-relative navigation system developed by Stanford and MBARI—one that allows an AUV to navigate by matching its altitude to a terrain map—and added algorithms that enable the vehicle to plan its route to steer around obstacles spotted ahead. Eventually, Houts indicated, the system should be able to go into unmapped areas and find its way around safely.

Houts hopes to adapt this technology to an upcoming MBARI effort to use AUVs to follow icebergs around and sample them. NASA’s program on Astrobiology Science, and Technology for Exploring Planets might someday use a similar system to monitor asteroids. (NASA is funding Houts’ work.)

The system had its first test in Monterey Bay earlier this month, flying over an underwater cliff at a constant altitude. It will undergo trickier tests before the end of the year, and Houts expects it to be fully operational next year.

Photo: Earlier this month, this autonomous underwater vehicle tested software that enables it to adjust its path according to obstacles or uneven terrain spotted in its path. Photo credit: Sarah Houts/Stanford University

Human Rights Watch is Apparently Terrified of Military Robots, But You Shouldn't Be

Human Rights Watch, an international organization that advocates for human rights around the world, published a report about a week ago warning against the development of autonomous armed robots and suggesting that they be preemptively banned by international treaty. We're unashamedly pro-robot around here, but this is an issue that I do take very seriously, and there are some good reasons why I think that attempting to ban autonomous armed robots is a mistake.

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The Robots Are Coming . . . to Your iPad

Robots for iPad app screenshot featured robots

We know you love robots. We love robots, too. In fact, who doesn't love robots? Robots are one of those things that capture the imagination of people of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities. So we're really proud to unveil this project. Robots for iPad is an app featuring the world's coolest robots. If you want to know how robotics is going to change the world, this app is for you.

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Video Monday: Rat Heart Robots, Cheap UAVs, and Disney's Humanoid

As you may (or may not) not have noticed, I've been on vacation for the last couple weeks getting acquainted with manta rays, Komodo dragons, suicidal Balinese on mopeds, and quite possibly malaria, dengue fever, and/or intestinal parasites. I'll keep you updated on those last three. Many, many thanks to Erico Guizzo, Angelica Lim, and Frank Tobe for filling in so capably, and I can only hope that y'all won't be too disappointed to have me back.

To get back into the swing of things, we'll be playing a little bit of catch-up today, with a run-through of some robotics news from the last few weeks that you may have missed.

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Automaton

IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

Editor
Erico Guizzo
 
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
 
 
Contributor
Jason Falconer
Contributor
Angelica Lim
 

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