Tag: robots

‘MechWarrior 5’ will revolve around co-op and user mods

Piranha Games is starting to open up on what MechWarrior 5: Mercernaries will entail after a year of teasing, and it's good news if you don't always want to play alone. The robot battler should launch in December 2018 with co-op play as a central feature -- up to four players can take on the game's central campaign. Your friends stand in for the AI teammates in your unit, which could be helpful when you absolutely need someone watching your back.

The title will also make a big deal of mod support through Steam Workshop, letting you tailor your own missions, planets and other aspects of the game. Not surprisingly, the game mostly hinges on running your own mercenary company. And if you're wondering: yes, there's a good chance the Clans play a role. The game starts in MechWarrior's 3015 timeframe and lasts for about 35 years, or right as the Clan invasion is in full swing.

There's still a lot we don't know about MW5, but for many its mere existence is important. It's the first MechWarrior game with a single-player mode in over 15 years, and the first new game in the series for over 4 years. For some, it isn't so much a sequel as it is a return to the franchise's roots.

Via: PC Gamer

Source: Piranha Games (YouTube), MechWarrior 5

Drone curbs overtime in Japan by blasting workers with music

Japan has a culture that encourages overtime out of a sense of loyalty, and that's a serious problem. It not only cuts into family and social life, it leads to entirely avoidable deaths. Taisei (the company behind the main Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium) aims to fix that in an unusual way: having a drone nag you into going home. Its newly unveiled T-Frend is ostensibly a security drone that surveils the office with its camera, but its specialty is blasting workers with "Auld Lang Syne" (commonly used in Japan to indicate closing time) to force them out of the office. In theory, the music and the drone's own buzzing make it impossible to concentrate.

The drone is autonomous, and doesn't need GPS to find its position. It'll be available in Japan in April as a ¥50,000 ($443) per month service, which largely limits it to mid- and large-sized businesses that can easily justify the cost through improved worker health.

Whether or not T-Frend is effective remains to be seen -- we could see stubborn workers donning noise-cancelling headphones. However, it could contribute to a national effort to create more balanced lifestyles. And it might even be more effective than existing strategies. Right now, overseers at companies frequently find themselves working overtime as they urge staff to avoid those extra hours -- the drone might let everyone punch out on time.

Via: AP (Phys.org)

Source: Taisei (translated)

These new Honda concept mobility robots are adorable

At CES 2018, Honda is set to unveil its 3E Robotics Concept robots. These are aimed at making people's lives easier through the use of robots, with a focus on helping those with mobility issues navigate their homes and the outside world. There are four robots in total: 3E-A18 is a companion robot designed to show compassion, while 3E-B18 is a mobility chair designed for indoor and outdoor use. The 3E-C18 appears to be a mobility concept vehicle with cargo space, while 3E-D18 is an autonomous off-road vehicle.

Additionally, Honda will feature its Mobile Power Pack World at CES, which is focused on EVs. It includes a portable and swappable battery pack for electric vehicles, as well as charging solutions for at home, out and about and during a natural disaster.

It's incredible to think how these robots will help people, but it's also nice to see the thought that went into their design. Too often, aesthetics are a second thought, but they are actually crucial to whether people want to interact with a device or not. Each of these robots is adorable, and they are something people who need assistance will likely want in their homes.

Source: Honda

San Francisco restricts the use of delivery robots on its sidewalks

Companies that are testing delivery robots hit a stumbling block in San Francisco this week. The city's Board of Supervisors voted to require permits for any autonomous delivery devices, restricting them to specific (and less-crowded) areas of the city. Additionally, these robots aren't allowed to make actual deliveries -- they are only allowed to be used for testing purposes. This restriction doesn't apply to delivery drones; the San Francisco Board of Supervisors only has jurisdiction over the sidewalks.

Complaints were first brought by a group called Walk San Francisco, which campaigns for the safety of pedestrians. The group was concerned that these autonomous robots, which use lasers and sensors to navigate, would pose a hazard to the elderly and young children on the city's crowded sidewalks.

When it was first proposed, this legislation was an outright ban. It's been soften to regulation, which makes sense. After all, San Francisco is known as a tech-forward city, with its proximity to Silicon Valley. Still, it's one of the first places that delivery robots first began operating, so it's a little surprising that the city would make moves to restrict them so drastically. It's a challenge for companies like Marble, which have been operating as a test in San Francisco's Mission and Potrero Hill districts (with human handles to help).

Source: BBC, San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Google’s AlphaGo AI can teach itself to master games like chess

Google's DeepMind team has already advanced its AlphaGo AI to dominate Go without human input, but now the system is clever enough to master other board games without intervention. Researchers have developed a more generalized system for AlphaGo Zero that can train itself to achieve "superhuman" skill in chess, Shogi (a Japanese classic) and other game types knowing only the rules, all within less than a day. It doesn't need example games or other references.

This doesn't mean that DeepMind has developed a truly general purpose, independent AI... yet. Chess and Shogi were relatively easy tests, as they're simpler than Go. It'll be another thing entirely to tackle complex video games like StarCraft II, let alone fuzzier concepts like walking or abstract thought. There's also the question of speed: less than 24 hours works for board games, but that's too slow for situations where AI needs to adapt on the spot.

Even so, this is a major step toward AI that can accomplish any task with only minimal instructions. Robots and self-driving cars in particular may need to learn how to navigate unfamiliar environments without the luxury of pre-supplied training material. If nothing else, chess champions have one more reason to be nervous.

Via: MIT Technology Review

Source: ArXiv.org

Girl Scouts launches computer science program to encourage STEM careers

Back in 2012, the Girl Scouts Research Institute conducted a survey, called the Generation STEM report, in which they discovered that 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM. However, that fades through middle and high school, in large part because their exposure to STEM isn't in a way that informs or supports their career decisions. Now, the Girl Scouts is launching its first computer science program, aimed at girls in grades 6–12. It's sponsored by defense contractor Raytheon.

The goal of this program is to encourage girls to consider and pursue careers in fields such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics and data science. By educating girls in these topics, the thinking goes, they may have more confidence to pursue theses fields later in life. This first phase of this program will function as a pilot in select cities early next year. It's planned to be fully implemented across the country in the fall of 2018.

The Girl Scouts and Raytheon are also introducing the Cyber Challenge, where girls in the computer science program will team up to show off their coding skills. The pilot of that program will happen in 2019.

This is just another chapter in a history of the Girl Scouts promoting and supporting STEM among their members. Last year, the organization teamed up with Netflix to get kids more interested in STEM. And in 2017, the Girl Scouts introduced badges in cybersecurity, robotics and computer science.

Researchers develop a way to train robots with just a gentle nudge

Researchers at Rice University have developed a way to train robots with just a little push. Their method uses algorithms that allow robots to not only respond to a human's touch in the moment, but alter their trajectory based on that physical input. "Here the robot has a plan, or desired trajectory, which describes how the robot thinks it should perform the task," said graduate student Dylan Losey about the project. "We introduced a real-time algorithm that modified, or deformed, the robot's future desired trajectory."

Typically, when robots are programmed to respond to physical contact from a human, they usually only only do so in the moment and go right back to their original trajectory soon thereafter. But with the Rice team's algorithms, their robots were able to take that input and use it to adjust their trajectories in real time. "By replanning the robot's desired trajectory after each new observation, the robot was able to generate behavior that matches the human's preference," said Losey.

You can check out the robot in action in the video below. In it, the researchers show that when the robot was in a typical impedance mode, humans could only adjust the robot's movements temporarily and changing the path in any real way took constant adjusting. But when it was placed in learning mode, a single adjustment could set the robot on a new, more desirable path. "The paradigm shift in this work is that instead of treating a human as a random disturbance, the robot should treat the human as a rational being who has a reason to interact and is trying to convey something important," Losey said in a statement. "The robot shouldn't just try to get out of the way. It should learn what's going on and do its job better."

The research was published recently in IEEE Transactions on Robotics.

Via: Rice University

Source: IEEE Transactions on Robotics

Amazon envisions delivery drones that self-destruct in emergencies

It's been years now since Amazon revealed its plan to begin using drones for delivery, and the company has slowly been improving and refining the idea ever since. Now, Amazon has been granted a patent on tech that would allow its drones to self-destruct in the event of an emergency.

The patent is specifically for "directed fragmentation of unmanned airborne vehicles," or in other words, controlled destruction of drones. The flight controllers can analyze such factors as the drone's flight path, current conditions and the ground it's flying over in order to determine the best way to destroy it in any given situation. If they detect a disruption in its operation, the drone can safely break into multiple pieces and avoid injuring anyone or damaging property.

This comes after Amazon filed a patent earlier this year to complete deliveries by parachuting packages from the sky. The parachutes might even be embedded within the shipping labels. The idea of drone deliveries might sound wild, but the company is clearly invested in trying to make them work under different conditions.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: US Patent and Trademark Office

Wendy’s will deliver your next Baconator through DoorDash

Starting today, you'll be able to get Wendy's delivered right to your door as the chain is now partnering exclusively with DoorDash. At launch, the delivery service is available in 48 markets nationwide. Wendy's and DoorDash piloted the program earlier this year in Columbus, Ohio and Dallas, Texas and the restaurant chain said that the Baconator and Frosty were popular items during the test.

Wendy's is the latest fast-food chain to team up with DoorDash. Other DoorDash partners have included Taco Bell, Baskin-Robbins and KFC while UberEats has McDonald's on its lineup.

While more and more restaurants are adding delivery to their offerings, others are experimenting with how that food is being delivered. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Domino's is piloting a program where its food is delivered by a self-driving car and elsewhere the pizza chain has served its pizza via drone and autonomous rovers. DoorDash has also been testing out robot delivery, so maybe that Frosty will soon show up at your door on a little self-driving rover.

Source: Wendy's

Velodyne LiDAR helps self-driving cars operate at highway speeds

Have you noticed that many self-driving car tests avoid the highway? There's a good reason for it: the LiDAR (laser pulse-based radar) cars use to navigate frequently can't handle high-detail images at the speeds and distances needed for timely reactions. Velodyne might fix that with its newly unveiled VLS-128 LiDAR system. It has 10 times more resolving power than its predecessor and can detect objects up to 300 meters (984 feet) away, helping it spot even smaller hazards at high speeds.

As the company's Anand Gopalan explained to The Verge, this could be crucial for the kind of dangers you see on the highway. An autonomous vehicle blasting down the road needs to very quickly determine whether or not an object is dangerous enough to require evasive action -- you want the car to avoid an animal crossing the road, but you don't want it to slam the brakes because of a paper bag.

The VLS-128's power also promises faster reactions, as its detail could save cars from having to check their LiDAR data against cameras before making choices. It's smaller and more efficient than Velodyne's previous technology too, so it shouldn't be quite so bulky as existing LiDAR systems.

The new hardware ships by the end of 2017. There's no mention of pricing, but this is bound to be expensive when it's Velodyne's spare-no-expense option. Not that this is necessarily a problem. The company is pitching it as a solution for autonomous transportation services (think driverless taxis and buses) where the cost is much easier to swallow than it would be with a personal car. And when Velodyne is one of the bigger companies selling "off-the-shelf" LiDAR, this could be crucial to companies that want to offer autonomous rides but can't afford to create hardware from scratch.

Via: The Verge

Source: BusinessWire