Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. Playground cofounder and CTO Peter Barrett discusses why the firm is betting big on the future of robots. Robots are finally learning how to open doors.
In contemporary sci-fi--HBO's "Westworld," for example--sentient machines take up arms against humanity. In the real world, intelligent--and increasingly autonomous--robots are being created with weapons already in hand. More than 16 countries (not to mention terrorist groups like the Islamic State) already possess armed drones. Militaries around the globe are racing to deploy robots at sea, on the ground and in the air. For now, these machines operate mostly under human control, but that may not be the case for long.
Senvol, a 3D printing data specialist based in New York City, is developing data-driven machine learning additive manufacturing (AM) software for the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR). The software will help the Navy cut out the process of trial and error during material development. New York's Senvol creates additive manufacturing software that analyzes the relationships between AM process parameters and material performance. With this software to hand, ONR will be able to develop what Senvol describes as "statistically substantiated material properties" in order to reduce the conventional material characterization and testing that is needed to develop design allowables (the statistically determined material property values ascertained from test data). "Our software's capabilities will allow ONR to select the appropriate process parameters on a particular additive manufacturing machine given a target mechanical performance," commented Senvol President Annie Wang.
Men and women have different patterns of smiling, new research reports -- and this, the authors add, can allow AI to easily distinguish between the genders. Image credits Benjamin D. Glass / U.S. Navy. Many a man has been enraptured by the right smile, and many more will probably follow -- although the opposite doesn't seem to hold true. Regardless, while romance unfolds across the world, one team of researchers from the University of Bradford is working to bring this subtle yet powerful gesture to bear in our interactions with artificial intelligence (AI). According to them, computers can learn to differentiate between men or women simply by observing a smile.
A senior scientist involved with the program told the South China Morning Post that China is working on updating old computer systems on nuclear submarines with an AI decision support system. The new system will relieve some of the load and mental burden from commanding officers. China believes its AI assistant could help commanders by assessing battlefield environments and recognizing threats more accurately than a human operator.
On the civilian side, the work at Wanshan could give China a greater say in setting standards for 21st-century infrastructure and AI uses. As for the military side, unmanned systems have a range of applications for logistics and combat. Robotic warships could handle anti-submarine missions, mine countermeasures, long-endurance patrol, espionage, and port security.
A prototype autonomous ship known as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV) has officially been transferred to the U.S. Navy from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) after a two-year testing and evaluation program. Named "Sea Hunter," the Office of Naval Research will continue to develop the vessel from this point forward. Although there's no specific timetable for when the Sea Hunter would join active naval operations, the statement from DARPA indicated that it could happen as early as this year. The anti-submarine warfare vessel could be the first of an entirely new class of warship. "[Sea Hunter] represents a new vision of naval surface warfare that trades small numbers of very capable, high-value assets for large numbers of commoditized, simpler platforms that are more capable in the aggregate," said Fred Kennedy of DARPA.