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Ayanna Howard: Robot Wrangler

The next generation of Mars rovers will owe their brains to the fan of “The Bionic Woman” TV show

4 min read
Photo of Ayanna Howard

Mars on Earth: Ayanna Howard cradles a Sony AIBO robot used to test new software approaches, in JPL’s Mars Yard. Here, prototype Mars rover designs are put through their paces in a simulated Martian landscape.

Photo: Henry Blackham

NASA’s twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have already rewritten the book on the Red Planet’s history, their amazing discoveries transmitted to an audience of millions. But is not content to let NASA rest on its laurels. She’s designing future generations of robotic explorers to bring back even more science for the buck. Her goal: a robot that can be dropped off on a planet and wander around on its own, eliminating the kind of intense supervision from Earth that Spirit and Opportunity require—their every move must be meticulously choreographed in advance and on a daily basis.

“I want to plop a rover on Mars and have it call back when it finds interesting science,” Howard says. “Like a geologist, it should wander around until it sees something that might be interesting. Then it should be able to investigate further and decide if it’s really interesting or just another rock.”

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This Wearable Neck Patch Can Diagnose Concussions

Self-powered sensors convert neck strain into electrical pulses to detect head trauma in athletes

4 min read
image of back of man's head and shoulders with a patch taped to his lower neck; right image is a time lapse image of a man's head extending far forward and back, simulating a case of whiplash

The prototype patch in this research is shown in (a) on the left; on the right (b) is the kind of head rotation that can yield an electrical response from the patch.

Juan Pastrana

Nelson Sepúlveda was sitting in the stands at Spartan Stadium, watching his hometown Michigan State players bash heads with their cross-state football rivals from the University of Michigan, when he had a scientific epiphany.

Perhaps the nanotechnologies he had been working on for years—paper-thin devices known as ferroelectret nanogenerators that convert mechanical energy into electrical energy—could help save these athletes from the ravages of traumatic brain injury.

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Video Friday: PoKeBo Cubes

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

2 min read
A young girl looks at a cluster of three simple robots facing each other on a table

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

RoboCup 2022: 11 July–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20 August–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12 September–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL
ANA Avatar XPRIZE Finals: 4 November–5 November 2022, LOS ANGELES
CoRL 2022: 14 December–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Automating Road Maintenance With LiDAR Technology

Team from SICK’s TiM$10K Challenge creates system to automate road maintenance

4 min read

Developed by a team of students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as part of SICK's TiM$10K Challenge, their ROADGNAR system uses LiDAR to collect detailed data on the surface of a roadway.

SICK

This is a sponsored article brought to you by SICK Inc.

From advanced manufacturing to automated vehicles, engineers are using LiDAR to change the world as we know it. For the second year, students from across the country submitted projects to SICK's annual TiM$10K Challenge.

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