Yesterday after work I was not feeling quite well, so I decided to postpone my workout and run in the park for today. Instead, I decided to read a bit. I chose one of my favorite lectures: IEEE Spectrum Magazine. I specially enjoy the section on one of my favorite technology topics other than wireless: robotics. Here are a couple of things I found interesting.

I already wrote about this project by Google months ago and, by the way, it is one of the posts in this blog that keeps getting more and more hits. The article this month explains how the engineers at Google have created a car that safely drives itself. They still apply the rule “safety first” and keep what they call safety driver in the car just in case.

Urmson, who is the tech lead for the project, said that the “heart of our system” is a laser range finder mounted on the roof of the car. The device, a Velodyne 64-beam laser, generates a detailed 3D map of the environment. The car then combines the laser measurements with high-resolution maps of the world, producing different types of data models that allow it to drive itself while avoiding obstacles and respecting traffic laws.

The vehicle also carries other sensors, which include: four radars, mounted on the front and rear bumpers, that allow the car to “see” far enough to be able to deal with fast traffic on freeways; a camera, positioned near the rear-view mirror, that detects traffic lights; and a GPS, inertial measurement unit, and wheel encoder, that determine the vehicle’s location and keep track of its movements.

I strongly encourage you to check the article. This project is way more advanced that what I had imagined and I really think this could change a lot of things. The videos and documentation Google released are impressive.

A group of researchers at UC Berkeley, famous for their root designs inspired in nature and animals, introduced CLASH, a cloth climbing robot able to climb on a sofa without any help. Now let’s teach it to sing “should I stay or should I go” and let’s equip it with a bed-bug zapping laser and it can be sold in NYC and make a lot of money.

For a vertical climbing robot, CLASH is surprisingly quick. It may actually be one of the quickest climbing robots in existence, able to move upwards at 24 centimeters per second, which is really quite a lot faster than it sounds. Part of the reason that CLASH can scramble around so fast is that it’s small and lightweight with a simple, but clever, design. CLASH is 10 centimeters long and weighs only 15 grams. The back-and-forth climbing motion of four legs (the back two are passive) is entirely driven by one single motor that gives CLASH a gait frequency of a brisk 34 strides per second.

Nothing to say other than I would love to attend this conference some time just for fun and to learn.

I had already blogged about this months ago. Robots and soccer, a dream come true for me. I haven’t seen the movie Real Steel yet but the moment I saw the commercial I imagined a similar movie with soccer-playing robots… Anyways, back to topic, some impressive advances in humanoids designed to play soccer out there… By the way, a robot soccer team scored a goal in a friendly game against a human team for the first time ever. This is just the beginning…

In the past, most humanoid robot soccer competitions have consisted of repeated kicking of the ball towards the goal and (for all practical purposes) not too much else. Ambitious algorithms and programming have fallen victim to sensors and hardware that can’t always keep up, as well as opponents who tend to interfere in carefully planned strategies. However, we’re starting to see some exceptionally clever robot maneuvers leading up to RoboCup 2011 in Istanbul, which had its first round of matches just yesterday.

Very very cool.

Have a good day!

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