Posted by Jeffrey on Oct 12, 2005PRIMM, Nevada (Reuters) – A Stanford University team won a $2 million prize on Sunday for sending a modified Volkswagen across 132 miles of rugged desert, guided only by sensors and computers in a race the Pentagon hopes will lead to a technological breakthrough in warfare.
Twenty-three driverless vehicles were sent into the Mojave Desert on Saturday in a race sponsored by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA.
After extending the race a day to allow a slow-moving robotic vehicle to finish, the Stanford University vehicle, known as Stanley, was declared the winner of the Grand Challenge with the quickest race time of six hours and 54 minutes.
Sebastian Thrun, leader of the Stanford team, said the victory was a win for the automobile’s future, predicting that all cars would one day be able to drive themselves.
DARPA sponsored the race to spur development of driverless vehicles that one day could carry water, fuel and other supplies for the U.S. military in war zones.
In last year’s inaugural race, called the Grand Challenge, every machine failed within sight of the starting line. The Pentagon decided to double the prize and hold the event again this year.
Organizers designed a more difficult course this year and an assortment of modified Humvees, sports utility vehicles, pickup trucks and dune buggies were sent into the mountains and valleys in the Mojave to navigate man-made obstacles, tunnels and a dry lake bed.
“These vehicles just haven’t achieved world records, they’ve made history,” said DARPA director Tony Tether.
One broke down at the starting line and 17 others stopped moving at various points on the course.
Four made it back to the finish line to complete the race and one, a huge six-wheeled truck called TerraMax, was stopped overnight so it could make it to the finish line.
Coming in just after Stanley were a pair of modified Humvees built by a Carnegie Mellon University team. A modified sports utility vehicle called GrayBot also finished just after sunset on Saturday.
The rugged, twisting course, about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas on the Nevada-California border, was chosen because of its similarity to terrain where the U.S. military is currently most active.
Using global positioning satellites and inertial navigation, the vehicles were programmed to follow a pre-defined course disclosed only hours before the race. Radar, lasers and cameras mounted on the vehicles guided onboard computers that steered the vehicles around obstacles.
Posted by Jeffrey on Sep 26, 2005SEOUL (Reuters) – Armed, six-legged robots may one day work alongside man’s best friend on the southern side of the Korean DMZ.
South Korea will spend 33.4 billion won over the next five years to develop the robots for the heavily fortified demilitarised zone that divides the peninsula, the Communications Ministry said in a statement Friday.
South Korea envisages the robots performing roles on the battlefield now done by dogs, such as sniffing for explosives and catching intruders, the ministry said.
The robots will stand knee-high to the average adult, mounted on wheels for road missions or on as many as eight legs to get them over uneven terrain, it said. Equipped with firearms, they will be able to carry out combat missions via remote control.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced plans this month to reduce the number of its troops in uniform by about 25 percent over 15 years and develop more high-tech weapons systems.
North Korea maintains most of its 1.2-million-strong army near its border with the South. The two Koreas are technically still at war because the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.
Posted by Jeffrey on Sep 15, 2005TOKYO (Reuters) – She may be a bit odd looking, what with a bright yellow face, silver arms and a positioning sensor on her head, but this tiny gal’s got charm — even if it is chip-induced.
Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, say their new Internet-linked robot “Wakamaru,” unveiled on Thursday, has a friendly personality that could make her a much-loved member of the family.
“We have tried to create a robot you can have a relationship with, just like a human,” said technical team leader Ken Onishi, who said that while none of her individual features are revolutionary, putting them together in one cute package was a mammoth task.
Able to recognize up to 10 people and call them by name, the 40 inch tall Wakamaru will approach and greet family members in a gentle, feminine voice when they arrive home and offer to pass on telephone messages or read out any e-mails that may have arrived.
In the morning, she’ll glide to your bedside to wake you up with the news headlines and weather forecast, remind you of your appointments for the day and may even invite you to join her in some light exercise.
And if security at home is a worry, give her a call on your mobile phone when you’re out and check the situation through a camera mounted on her forehead.
But this kind of companionship doesn’t come cheap.
A limited edition of 100 robots goes on sale in Tokyo on Friday, at a cost of 1.575 million yen ($14,260), with a monthly maintenance charge of around 10,000 yen.
Posted by Jeffrey on Sep 14, 2005SINGAPORE – Want more than just glossy paint on your nails? A new machine with a camera can paint a photographed image, whether a loved one or a pet, on your nails for just 2 Singapore dollars (US$1) each.
A group of Singaporean entrepreneurs on Wednesday launched E-Manicure, a machine with a camera that paints full-color images on nails in just 30 seconds. They say the resolution is good, and they can add glitter and sparkles to jazz up the image.
Surendren Apparoo, spokesman for E-manicure Pte. Ltd., acknowledged that similar machines already exist in other countries, including Japan and the United States. But he said they are mostly gimmicks, and that E-Manicure seeks to develop a regional franchise.
He said the company’s machine was smaller and lighter than others on the market — it’s about one foot wide and 2.5 feet tall — and each costs up to 6,000 Singapore dollars (US$3,570) to produce.
Several Singaporean businessmen came up with the idea after waiting a long time for their wives to finish manicures while on a trip to Thailand.