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Why Rat-Brained Robots Are So Good at Navigating Unfamiliar Terrain

Running algorithms that mimic a rat’s navigation neurons, heavy machines will soon plumb Australia’s underground mines

11 min read
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Photo: Dan Saelinger
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If you take a common brown rat and drop it into a lab maze or a subway tunnel, it will immediately begin to explore its surroundings, sniffing around the edges, brushing its whiskers against surfaces, peering around corners and obstacles. After a while, it will return to where it started, and from then on, it will treat the explored terrain as familiar.

Roboticists have long dreamed of giving their creations similar navigation skills. To be useful in our environments, robots must be able to find their way around on their own. Some are already learning to do that in homes,offices, warehouses, hospitals, hotels, and, in the case of self-driving cars, entire cities. Despite the progress, though, these robotic platforms still struggle to operate reliably under even mildly challenging conditions. Self-driving vehicles, for example, may come equipped with sophisticated sensors and detailed maps of the road ahead, and yet human drivers still have to take control in heavy rain or snow, or at night.

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Deep Learning Gets a Boost From New Reconfigurable Processor

The ReAAP processor allows AI to be faster, more efficient

2 min read
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iStock

This article is part of our exclusive IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.

Deep learning is a critical computing approach that is pushing the boundaries of technology – crunching immense amounts of data and uncovering subtle patterns that humans could never discern on their own. But for optimal performance, deep learning algorithms need to be supported with the right software compiler and hardware combinations. In particular, reconfigurable processors, which allow for flexible use of hardware resources for computing as needed, are key.

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Rory Cooper’s Wheelchair Tech Makes the World More Accessible

He has introduced customized controls and builds wheelchairs for rough terrain

6 min read
portrait of a man in a navy blue polo with greenery in the background
Abigail Albright

For more than 25 years, Rory Cooper has been developing technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Cooper began his work after a spinal cord injury in 1980 left him paralyzed from the waist down. First he modified the back brace he was required to wear. He then turned to building a better wheelchair and came up with an electric-powered version that helped its user stand up. He eventually discovered biomedical engineering and was inspired to focus his career on developing assistive technology. His inventions have helped countless wheelchair users get around with more ease and comfort.

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Industrial Functional Safety Training from UL Solutions

Build knowledge and skills to better navigate today's functional safety landscape

3 min read

UL Solutions offer personnel certification at both the professional and expert levels in automotive, autonomous vehicles, electronics and semiconductors, machinery, industrial automation, and cybersecurity.

UL Solutions

This is a sponsored article brought to you by UL Solutions.

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Our UL Certified Functional Safety Certification programs provide your team opportunities to learn about — or deepen their existing knowledge and skills in — functional safety to achieve professional credentials in this space.

We offer personnel certification at both the professional and expert levels in automotive, autonomous vehicles, electronics and semiconductors, machinery, industrial automation, and cybersecurity.

You can now register for any of the offerings listed below. All our instructor-led, virtual courses provide a deep dive into key functional safety standards.

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