Nasa Gives MIT a Valkyrie Robot for Development

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Via Phys.org:

NASA announced today that MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is one of two university research groups nationwide that will receive a 6-foot, 290-pound humanoid robot to test and develop for future space missions to Mars and beyond.

A group led by CSAIL principal investigator Russ Tedrake will develop algorithms for the robot, known as “Valkyrie” or “R5,” as part of NASA’s upcoming Space Robotics Challenge, which aims to create more dexterous autonomous robots that can help or even take the place of humans “extreme space” missions.

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Nasa Gives MIT a Valkyrie Robot for Development

Three Alternative Fusion Projects That Are Making Progress

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Via IEEE Spectrum:

The past few months have proved that hope for nuclear fusion as the ultimate clean and nonpolluting energy source springs eternal. One reactor plan projects a tantalizing gigawatts-per-year net energy out of its still-on-the-drawing-board idea. Another scheme uses the same reaction as the first but seeks smaller-scale reactors. A third uses the familiar “heavy hydrogen” reactions of decades past—deuterium and ­tritium hydrogen isotopes combining to create helium, neutrons, and energy—but relies on possibly transformative design changes enabled by using the latest superconducting magnets.

To be clear, unexpected errors or oversights could still ground one or all of these efforts. But when so much of the research world is depending on the overdue and overbudget US $20 billion ITER project, each of these efforts counteracts the monoculture mind-set in fusion research that has been the subject of some industry questioning and criticism.

“There’s inertia in having the established magnetic [fusion reactors], and it’s a mature technology that’s being used,” says Dennis Whyte, director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. “But the new superconducting technology has improved over even the last three to four years. Even since we started the project, the capability of the technology has improved.”

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Three Alternative Fusion Projects That Are Making Progress

Farm Robot Learns to Smash Weeds, Reduces Need for Herbicides

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Via Popular Science:

Bonirob, developed by Bosch’s Deepfield Robotics, is billed to eliminate some of the most tedious tasks in modern farming, plant breeding, and weeding. The autonomous robot is built to be a mobile plant lab, able to decide which strains of plant are most apt to survive insects and viruses and how much fertilizer they would need, and then smash any weeds with a ramming rod.

How does it know? Bonirob employs a type of machine learning (a stab at artificial intelligence) called decision tree learning. Researchers show Bonirob lots of pictures of healthy leaves that are tagged to be good, and pictures of weeds that are tagged to be bad, and the machine makes a series of choices based on observed in new data to judge whether a plant in the field is good or bad. Those algorithms are tweaked as the machine collects its own new images.

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Farm Robot Learns to Smash Weeds, Reduces Need for Herbicides