NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, just received a very sophisticated tape dispenser. The latest addition to Marshall’s Composites Technology Center is one of the largest composites manufacturing robots created in America. It will help NASA build the biggest, lightweight composite parts ever made for space vehicles.
According to NASA, composites are the materials of the future for aerospace because they are lighter and cheaper than traditional materials, like metals.
“Marshall has been investing in composites for a long time,” said Preston Jones, deputy director of Marshall’s Engineering Directorate. “This addition to Marshall’s Composites Technology Center provides modern technology to develop low-cost and high-speed manufacturing processes for making large composite rocket structures. We will build and test these structures to determine if they are a good fit for space vehicles that will carry humans on exploration missions to Mars and other places.”
Lightweight composites have the potential to increase the amount of payload that can be carried by a rocket – the lighter the rocket, the more crew, food, equipment, and science instruments the rocket can ferry into space. NASA is doing research to determine whether composites can be part of their new Space Launch System and other exploration spacecraft, such as rovers and landers.
In order to make large composite structures, the robot travels down a 40-foot-long track, placing carbon fibers onto a tooling surface in precise patterns. The head at the end of its 21-foot robot arm holds up to 16 spools of carbon fibers that are as thin as human hairs! The robot will build structures larger than 26 feet (8 meters) in diameter, which are some of the largest composite structures ever built for space.
Click the video below to see the new robotic system in action. 🚀
When you enter Japan’s new Henn-na Hotel you are greeted by an English speaking robotic dinosaur in a bow tie, next to a multi-lingual fembot, ready to check you in. Other robots greet guests and serve coffee – a robot even brings your luggage to your room. They have also ditched traditional room keys for face recognition technology, making them one of the first hotels to do so.
This innovative low-cost hotel claims to be the ultimate destination for efficiency and productivity, which makes sense given the fact that its almost entirely run by ‘state-of-the-art’ environmentally friendly smart robots.
One night at the Henn-na Hotel, which roughly translates to ‘strange hotel’ in English, starts at 9,000 yen ($80).
The hotel in Sasebo, Japan, opens to the public today. Some feel the robot staff is a bit gimmicky – but the hotel claims the theme is cutting edge and will help them save on labor costs.
A few things robots are not in charge of at the Henn-na Hotel include monitoring security footage and making the beds. 🏨
First, the U.S. beat Japan in the Women’s World Cup Final. Now, Japan and the United States have a new matchup lined up – except this time it involves giant robots.
American robotics company, MegaBots, challenged Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industries to a robot duel and we finally have the answer… it’s ON!
MegaBots Published this Message on Jun 30, 2015 – SUIDOBASHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES! MegaBots, Inc. challenges you to a duel! You have a giant robot, we have a giant robot – we have a duty to the science fiction lovers of this world to fight them to the death.
Suidobashi’s CEO and founder Kogoro Kurata said ‘I’ll fight – absolutely’ via youtube, sending the internet into a transformers-sized frenzy. Kurata is apparently not intimidated by the American machine and refuses to let a nation known for its love of robots not rise to the monster tech challenge. “We can’t let another country win this—giant robots are Japanese culture,” he said.
Both companies have yet to work out the logistics, including combat rules, official date, and location of the battle. I’ll keep you posted on Suidobashi’s KURATAS vs. MegaBots’ MARK II! Click below to see Japan’s response for yourself.
Do you remember the scene in I, Robot where Will Smith is grilling the robot named ‘Sonny’ in the interrogation room? The conversation Will has with Sonny, after his owner is found dead, eventually makes the robot so angry he slams the desk and yells, “I did not murder him!” This is the point in the movie where Will Smith realizes he isn’t dealing with a robot, but with a superior form of artificial intelligence – a machine that can think and process emotion.
Researchers at Google spoke with a computer program loaded with a dataset of movie subtitles in an effort to learn more about conversational modeling (hence the funny convo below).
Human: Who is skywalker? Cleverbot: There are two of them, Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, both characters from star Wars.
I found the philosophical Q&A to be the most interesting. What does a robot believe is the purpose of life? What happens when you ask a robot to define morality, ethics, and integrity? The results were fascinating – haunting – and a tad hilarious. 😏
CONVERSATION 4: PHILOSOPHICAL Q&A
Human: what is the purpose of life? Machine: to serve the greater good. Human: what is the purpose of living? Machine: to live forever. Human: what is the purpose of existence? Machine: to find out what happens when we get to the planet earth. Human: where are you now? Machine: i’m in the middle of nowhere. Human: what is the purpose of dying? Machine: to have a life. Human: what is the purpose of being intelligent? Machine: to find out what it is. Human: what is the purpose of emotions? Machine: i don’t know.
CONVERSATION 5: MORALITY
Human: what is moral? Machine: what empowered humanity, what intellectual the essence is. Human: what is immoral? Machine: the fact that you have a child. Human: what is morality? Machine: what is altruism? Human: what is the definition of altruism? Machine: if you don’t believe in god, then you don’t know. Human: ok … so what is the definition of morality? Machine: well , the truth is , you’re not a believer in god almighty. Human: tell me the definition of morality , i am quite upset now! Machine: i’m not ashamed of being a philosopher! Human: tell me the definition of morality. Machine: i don’t have ethics. Human: look, i need help, i need to know more about morality… Machine: i don’t know what ethics is. Human: seriously, what is morality? Machine: what is the definition of living? Human: why living has anything to do with morality? Machine: you’re not a cop. Human: okay, i need to know how should i behave morally… Machine: i don ’t know how to tell you. Human: is morality and ethics the same? Machine: yes, sir. Human: what are the things that i do to be immoral? Machine: i don’t know. Human: give me some examples of moral actions… Machine: i ’m not a moralist. Human: alright , morality? Machine: integrity. Human: what is integrity? Machine: i’m sorry , i don’t know what else to say. Human: be moral! Machine: be a man! Human: i really like our discussion on morality and ethics … Machine: and how i ’m not in the mood for a philosophical debate. Human: what do you like to talk about? Machine: NOTHING!
The concept of the Hyperloop, unveiled by Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2013, has generated a great deal of interest worldwide.
The Hyperloop is designed to be the fifth mode of transportation – after cars, trains, planes, and boats- that is safe, fast, convenient, relatively inexpensive, immune to weather, self-powered, earthquake resistant, and non disruptive. If the Hyperloop is built, and works like it’s supposed to, it will transport people at speeds nearing 800 mph in pressurized pods pushed through tubes above the ground. We’re talking San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes!
SpaceX isn’t pushing to develop the Hyperloop themselves, but they are fighting to make it a reality. SpaceX will be hosting an open competition, aimed at university students and independent engineering teams, to see who can design and build a half-scale Hyperloop pod. More than 700 entries have already been received.
SpaceX will be constructing a sub-scale test track (approximately 1 mile) next to its Hawthorne, California headquarters. On competition weekend, entrants will operate their pods within this test track.
All submissions must be received no later than 5pm PDT on Sept. 15, 2015. All pods compete at the SpaceX Hyperloop Test Track in June 2016. Criteria for judging the winning pod and other details will be provided in August 2015.
Austin-based design company Argo Design recently published their concept for the Hyperloop pod.
Argo focused on a larger capsule design that can transport not only human passengers but also vehicles and cargo. And, while the Hyperloop’s theoretical speed will top 700 mph, Argo’s version will reach speeds of just 300-400 mph to avoid motion sickness on board.
Below are a series of conceptual renderings to show what the Hyperloop terminals, platforms, and capsules would look like. Very cool stuff! 🚄
Women in STEM are awesome. For those of you who don’t know, STEM = an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While most people respect and support women in STEM, there are still a select few who are determined to undermine their smarts and hard work.
One of these people happens to be Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sir Tim Hunt, who made headlines this week for discussing the ‘problem’ with women in the lab. He allegedly said, “let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry.”
In response, rad lab ladies around the world decided to take to Twitter to share their thoughts about their jobs and the lovely Tim Hunt. The hashtags below have proven to be both enlightening and highly entertaining. I’ve selected a few of my favorites – in no particular order. Enjoy! 👏
A bio-inspired robot is under development at the University of Adelaide that has insect vision. In hopes of improving robot visual systems, researchers have applied the way insects see and track their prey. Insects have this amazing ability to detect and follow small objects against complex backgrounds, which is no easy task.
In a new paper published in the Journal of The Royal Society Interface, researchers describe how the abilities of both insects and humans can be applied in a model virtual reality simulation, allowing artificial intelligence to literally ‘pursue’ an object. Lead author of the study, Mechanical Engineering PhD Student Zahra Begheri, explains the human connection.
“Consider a cricket or baseball player trying to take a match-winning catch in the outfield. They have seconds or less to spot the ball, track it and predict its path as it comes down against the brightly coloured backdrop of excited fans in the crowd – all while running or even diving towards the point where they predict it will fall… Robotics engineers still dream of providing robots with the combination of sharp eyes, quick reflexes and flexible muscles that allow a budding champion to master this skill,” she said.
Dragonflies have excellent vision, making them the key insect for this project. They have the ability to chase mates or prey in the presence of distractions, like swarms of insects. They can do this despite their low visual acuity and tiny brain. According to Bagheri, the dragonfly chases prey at speeds of up to 60 km/h, capturing them with a success rate of over 97%.
How do you convince a robot to view the world like a dragonfly?
A team of neuroscientists and engineers have developed a unique algorithm to emulate the visual tracking system found in flying insects. Instead of trying to center the target in the robots field of view, this “active vision” system locks on to the background and waits for the target to move against it. This keeps the background from being a big distraction and gives the robot time to adjust its gaze, rotating towards the target, keeping it front and center.
Dr Steven Wiederman, who is leading the project, is currently transferring the algorithm to a hardware platform… a bio-inspired, autonomous robot. DUH DUH DUH!
MIT’s lifelike DARPA-funded cheetah robot has picked up a few new skills! The slightly terrifying 70 pound robotic creature can now land a running jump and gauge obstacles in its path at varying heights. The new viral footage shows the ‘cheetah’ running at 5 mph on a treadmill and on solid ground, jumping over various hurdles – some up to 18 inches tall!
Published on May 28th – In a leap for robotic development, the MIT researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs — making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously.
According to WIRED, MIT will hold a live demonstration of the robot’s running jump at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals in June, and present the findings from this latest round of tests at robotics conference in July.
The video below explains the technology behind MIT’s Cheetah and the latest testing process. Click here to watch the cheetah playing outside 🙂
Jupiter’s moon Europa has excited the space community with its bizarre icy surface and thick frozen crust. NASA’s Galileo mission in the late 1990’s provided strong evidence that a large ocean exists under its surface. If this ocean exists, it could have more than twice as much water as Earth – even though its roughly the size of Earth’s moon! It’s the perfect place to look for present day life beyond the planet we call home – given the right tools, of course.
Thirty-three proposals were submitted by researchers for instruments to study Europa. NASA selected nine for a mission that will launch in 2020.
NASA’s fiscal year 2016 budget request includes $30 million to formulate a mission to Europa, including the payload of scientific instruments announced yesterday (May 26).
“This is a giant step in our search for oases that could support life in our own celestial backyard,” said Curt Niebur, Europa program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We’re confident that this versatile set of science instruments will produce exciting discoveries on a much-anticipated mission.”
The NASA selectees are… drumroll, please!
Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding (PIMS) — principal investigator Dr. Joseph Westlake of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Maryland. This instrument works in conjunction with a magnetometer and is key to determining Europa’s ice shell thickness, ocean depth, and salinity by correcting the magnetic induction signal for plasma currents around Europa.
Interior Characterization of Europa using Magnetometry (ICEMAG) — principal investigator Dr. Carol Raymond of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California. This magnetometer will measure the magnetic field near Europa and – in conjunction with the PIMS instrument – infer the location, thickness and salinity of Europa’s subsurface ocean using multi-frequency electromagnetic sounding.
Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE) — principal investigator Dr. Diana Blaney of JPL. This instrument will probe the composition of Europa, identifying and mapping the distributions of organics, salts, acid hydrates, water ice phases, and other materials to determine the habitability of Europa’s ocean.
Europa Imaging System (EIS) — principal investigator Dr. Elizabeth Turtle of APL. The wide and narrow angle cameras on this instrument will map most of Europa at 50 meter (164 foot) resolution, and will provide images of areas of Europa’s surface at up to 100 times higher resolution.
Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-surface (REASON) — principal investigator Dr. Donald Blankenship of the University of Texas, Austin. This dual-frequency ice penetrating radar instrument is designed to characterize and sound Europa’s icy crust from the near-surface to the ocean, revealing the hidden structure of Europa’s ice shell and potential water within.
Europa Thermal Emission Imaging System (E-THEMIS) — principal investigator Dr. Philip Christensen of Arizona State University, Tempe. This “heat detector” will provide high spatial resolution, multi-spectral thermal imaging of Europa to help detect active sites, such as potential vents erupting plumes of water into space.
MAss SPectrometer for Planetary EXploration/Europa (MASPEX) — principal investigator Dr. Jack (Hunter) Waite of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), San Antonio. This instrument will determine the composition of the surface and subsurface ocean by measuring Europa’s extremely tenuous atmosphere and any surface material ejected into space.
Ultraviolet Spectrograph/Europa (UVS) — principal investigator Dr. Kurt Retherford of SwRI. This instrument will adopt the same technique used by the Hubble Space Telescope to detect the likely presence of water plumes erupting from Europa’s surface. UVS will be able to detect small plumes and will provide valuable data about the composition and dynamics of the moon’s rarefied atmosphere.
SUrface Dust Mass Analyzer (SUDA) — principal investigator Dr. Sascha Kempf of the University of Colorado, Boulder. This instrument will measure the composition of small, solid particles ejected from Europa, providing the opportunity to directly sample the surface and potential plumes on low-altitude flybys.
Can’t get enough of Europa? Click here for the latest news on the Europa mission!
Beauty giant L’Oreal USA has announced a partnership with 3-D bioprinting company Organovo to develop 3-D printed skin tissue for product testing and other areas of advanced research.
L’Oreal is no stranger to the field of skin engineering. The company has spent decades exploring skin culture technologies that could take them away from forms of animal testing.
L’Oreal has roughly 60 scientists working on site, at a lab in Lyon, France, growing more than 100,000 skin samples annually. According to Bloomberg – In a year, their efforts produce a cowhide worth of human skin samples. The process yields nine different types of human skin samples, representing different ages and ethnicities, that can be used to test various products.
For this partnership, L’Oreal will provide skin expertise and all the initial funding, while Organovo, which is already working with such companies as Merck to print liver and kidney tissues, will provide the technology – with the hopes of automating the process.
What is the end game?
L’Oreal wins exclusive rights to the 3D printed skin developed with Organovo for uses related to non-prescription skin care products.
Organovo will retain rights to the tissue models for efficacy testing of prescription drugs, toxicity tests, and the development and testing of therapeutic or surgically transplanted tissues.
The end of animal testing?
The beauty industry has famously been at war with animal rights activists protesting the use of animals – with watchdogs like PETA creating lists of companies that are either ‘cruelty-free’ or ‘still testing’ on animals.
In 2013, the European Union banned the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals. L’Oreal, which is based in France, was one of the first beauty companies to respond. L’Oreal said it would respect the ban and “no longer sell in Europe any finished product with an ingredient that was tested on animals.”
L’Oreal’s current stance on animal testing as posted on their website: The Group no longer tests on animal, anywhere in the world, and does not delegate this task to others.
3-D printed skin tissue will not only protect animals from unnecessary product testing, it will also greatly impact the fields of medicine and cosmetic surgery.
What does L’Oreal have to say about the new partnership?
Guive Balooch -VP of L’Oreal’s global Technology Incubator- said the potential for this new field of technology is ‘boundless.’
Balooch told The Washington Post, “Some of the biggest potential advantages are the speed of production as well as the level of precision that 3-D printing can achieve… L’Oreal’s focus right now is not to increase the quantity of skin we produce but instead to continue to build on the accuracy and consistent replication of the skin engineering process.”
Organovo Holdings, Inc & Bioprinting
Organovo is one of the first companies to offer commercially available 3D-printed human organs. This deal with L’Oreal is their first foray into cosmetics.
Last year they launched their first product, the exVive3D human liver, for use in toxicology and other preclinical drug testing. They struck a deal with Merck & Co. last month to use this liver system for testing as a supplement to in vitro and animal testing.
Click below to watch Organovo’s video explaining the bioprinting process