The October 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Building Robots That Can Go Where We Go

To be useful around people, robots need to learn how to walk like we do

11 min read
Agility Robotics designed its legged robots Cassie [left] and Digit to move in a more dynamic fashion than regular robots do.
Photo: Dan Saelinger

Robot cassie goes for a walk.Gif: Dan Saelinger

Robots have walked on legs for decades. Today’s most advanced humanoid robots can tramp along flat and inclined surfaces, climb up and down stairs, and slog through rough terrain. Some can even jump. But despite the progress, legged robots still can’t begin to match the agility, efficiency, and robustness of humans and animals.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The World’s Largest Camera Is Nearly Complete

The future heart of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will soon make its way to Chile

3 min read
A large black cylinder with a glass lens in front rests on a sturdy white structure in a bright room.

The LSST camera, eventually bound for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile, sits on its stand in a Bay Area clean room.

Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The world’s largest camera sits within a nondescript industrial building in the hills above San Francisco Bay.

If all goes well, this camera will one day fit into the heart of the future Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. For the last seven years, engineers have been crafting the camera in a clean room at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif. In May 2023, if all goes according to plan, the camera will finally fly to its destination, itself currently under construction in the desert highlands of northern Chile.

Building a camera as complex as this requires a good deal of patience, testing, and careful engineering. The road to that flight has been long, and there’s still some way to go before the end is in sight.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

Lab Revisits the Task of Putting Common Sense in AI

New nonprofit Basis hopes to model human reasoning to inform science and public policy

5 min read
ai hand and human hand touching pointer fingers
iStock

The field of artificial intelligence has embraced deep learning—in which algorithms find patterns in big data sets—after moving on from earlier systems that more explicitly modeled human reasoning. But deep learning has its flaws: AI models often show a lack of common sense, for example. A new nonprofit, Basis, hopes to build software tools that advance the earlier method of modeling human reasoning, and then apply that method toward pressing problems in scientific discovery and public policy.

To date, Basis has received a government grant and a donation of a few million dollars. Advisors include Rui Costa, a neuroscientist who heads the Allen Institute in Seattle, and Anthony Philippakis, the chief data officer of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass. In July, over tacos at the International Conference on Machine Intelligence, I spoke with Zenna Tavares, a Basis cofounder, and Sam Witty, a Basis research scientist, about human intelligence, problems with academia, and trash collection. The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
Technology Innovation Institute

Autonomous systems sit at the intersection of AI, IoT, cloud architectures, and agile software development practices. Various systems are becoming prominent, such as unmanned drones, self-driving cars, automated warehouses, and managing capabilities in smart cities. Little attention has been paid to securing autonomous systems as systems composed of multiple automated components. Various patchwork efforts have focused on individual components.

Cloud services are starting to adopt a Zero Trust approach for securing the chain of trust that might traverse multiple systems. It has become imperative to extend a Zero Trust architecture to systems of autonomous systems to protect not only drones, but also industrial equipment, supply chain automation, and smart cities.