Curiosity Rover Alive and Well on Surface of Mars

Odyssey relays one final picture tonight, but promises more tomorrow

1 min read
Curiosity Rover Alive and Well on Surface of Mars

The post-landing press conference turned out to be less of a press conference, and more of a chance for the entire MSL team to celebrate and accept congratulations from each other and the rampant adulation of their fans (all of us in the media, me definitely included). Don't hold it against them, they totally deserved it. We do know that as far as the data indicate, everything has gone very well, and Curiosity appears to be in perfect health. It'll take a few days to really check everything out, and we'll get an update tomorrow (er, later today) at 9am and then again at 4pm, with the 4pm briefing likely to be the most interesting (and most picture-filled). 

We'll be back tomorrow morning to keep on bringing you all the news as it happens, but to tide you over until then, have a look at one more picture from Curiosity's hazcam:

See that feature at the upper right? It could be a mountain. Or it could be the rim of Gale Crater. They're not quite sure, but tomorrow, we may find out.

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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