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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Carbon-Removal Tech Grabs Elon Musk’s Check

Millions poured into XPrize effort to pull CO2 out of the sky

7 min read
A computer rendering showing Project Hajar sited in the Al Hajar mountains in Oman, capturing 1000 tons/year of CO2.

London’s Mission Zero Technologies has developed an energy-efficient way of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequestering it into the dominant rock (peridotites) of the upper part of the Earth’s mantle.

mission zero/44.01

Stretching across the northern coasts of Oman and the United Arab Emirates loom the vast jagged peaks of the Al Hajar mountains. The craggy outcrops are made mostly of a rock called peridotite, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and turns it into solid minerals. The mountains could store trillions of tonnes of human-made CO2 emissions, but the natural carbon-mineralization process works at a glacial pace.

London startup 44.01 has found a way to speed it up. For this endeavor, 44.01 is teaming up with another London startup, Mission Zero Technologies, which has developed an energy-efficient method to capture CO2 from air. Called Project Hajar, it plans to pull 1,000 tonnes of CO2/year from air at a demonstration facility in Oman, injecting some 3–4 tonnes/day into the peridotite rocks. A 120 tonne-capacity pilot plant will come online in the first half of 2023.

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What Is Wi-Fi 7?

Great capacity, less latency—here's how IEEE 802.11be achieves both

4 min read
A purple circle with the number 7 in the middle. Curved purple lines radiate out from the circle to the left and right.
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New generations of Wi-Fi have sprung onto the scene at a rapid pace in recent years. After a storied five-year presence, Wi-Fi 5 was usurped in 2019 by Wi-Fi 6, only for the latter to be toppled a year later in 2020 by an intermediate generation, Wi-Fi 6E. And now, just a couple years later, we’re on the verge of Wi-Fi 7.

Wi-Fi 7 (the official IEEE standard is 802.11be) may only give Wi-Fi 6 a scant few years in the spotlight, but it’s not just an upgrade for the sake of an upgrade. Several new technologies—and some that debuted in Wi-Fi 6E but haven’t entirely yet come into their own—will allow Wi-Fi 7 routers and devices to make full use of an entirely new band of spectrum at 6 gigahertz. This spectrum—first tapped into with Wi-Fi 6E—adds a third wireless band alongside the more familiar 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands.

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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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