Space Agency

Video Friday: Boston Dynamics' Spot Robots Pull a Truck, and More

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

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. It only takes 10 Spotpower (SP) to haul a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot ( 1 degree uphill, truck in neutral). These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon.

NASA Launching Astrobee Robots to Space Station Tomorrow

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

It's been a little over two years since we were first introduced to Astrobee, an autonomous robotic cube designed to fly around the International Space Station. Tomorrow, a pair of Astrobee robots (named Honey and Bumble) will launch to the ISS aboard a Cygnus cargo flight. There's already a nice comfy dock waiting for them in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), and the plan is to put them to work as soon as possible. After a bit of astronaut-assisted setup, the robots will buzz around autonomously, doing experiments and taking video, even operating without direct human supervision on occasion. NASA has big plans for these little robots, and before they head off to space, we checked in with folks from the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., to learn about what we have to look forward to.

Logitech's Harmony Express is a sleek Alexa-powered universal remote


Logitech's popular Harmony universal remotes have long been the go-to solution for tech-savvy nerds who want to replace the bounty of ugly rectangles littering their coffee tables with a single, all-powerful option. But universal remotes are still pretty complex on their own, with dozens of buttons and, in some cases, LCD screens. You're basically swapping several remotes for something that looks like it belongs in one of NASA's Mission Control Centers. Now, there's something simpler: the Harmony Express, a compact universal remote that replaces a slew of buttons with Amazon Alexa voice controls. The $250 Express isn't meant to replace the Harmony Elite, which Logitech released back in 2015 and is still one of the best high-end universal remotes around.

Artificial intelligence may have a bigger presence in future space missions


What they did: The SDO instrument in question is known as MEGS-A, and it was designed to keep an eye on ultraviolet radiation levels, which correlate with a ballooning of the Earth's outer atmosphere that can harm satellites in near-Earth orbit. A deep-learning network that researchers at NASA Frontier Development Lab created with help from IBM, SETI, and Nimbix in 2018 may soon replace the failed instrument by inferring what ultraviolet radiation levels that instrument would detect based on what the other instruments on SDO are observing at any given time, NASA AI consultant Graham Mackintosh tells Axios. While NASA isn't yet using the fix operationally, the results are promising, Mackintosh added. What to watch: AI models like this could also be used for other future missions, Mackintosh said. Instead of loading 3 instruments on a satellite to measure different aspects of the space environment, you could potentially launch two and use the data collected to infer the information that would have been measured by a third.

Katie Bouman: Who is the scientist behind the first image of a black hole?

The Independent

On Wednesday 10 April, the first image ever taken of a black hole was released. The picture, which shows a black hole surrounded by a hazy red and yellow circle, provides an unprecedented peek at one of the most mysterious entities in the universe. One of the scientists involved in the development of the picture is Dr Katie Bouman. We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.

Powehi: Black hole in first ever photo name means 'embellished dark source of unending creation'

The Independent

The black hole that starred in the first ever photo to be taken of its kind has been given a name. The now famous swirling void will be known as Powehi, a Hawaiian word which has been bestowed by a language professor. And the name's meaning, chosen by University of Hawaii-Hilo Hawaiian Professor Larry Kimura, is as fittingly dramatic as the picture and work that produced it. We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.

Smart suits and spider probes among 18 radical ideas funded by NASA

Daily Mail

NASA has announced a new round of funding for 18 futuristic projects that could help propel humans further into our solar system and beyond. Many of the ideas'sound like the stuff of science fiction,' the agency acknowledged, but they're not too crazy to one day become a reality. Among those that received funding are micro-probes that take after spiders to safely fly through the air, as well as a futuristic'smart suit' with self-healing skin to protect astronauts. Among those that were funded are micro-probes that take after spiders to safely fly through the air, as well as a futuristic'smart suit' with self-healing skin to protect astronauts (pictured) The cutting edge technologies are part of NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, which awards applicants up to $500,000 to develop their ideas. There are 12 Phase I ideas, like the smart suit, which are awarded $125,000 over nine months.

Black hole first image: Scientist Katherine Bouman becomes hero for helping make stunning photo

The Independent

Scientist Katherine Bouman has become one of the world's most popular people for helping create the first ever picture of a black hole. The researcher was one of a team made up of a huge number of experts who produced the image, which shows the blazing red and yellow of the event horizon that surrounds the first black hole ever to be seen. And one image in particular of Dr Bouman doing part of that work – using an algorithm she wrote to generate the image that made headlines around the world – has served as a reminder of the vast amount of expertise that has gone into creating such an achievement. We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.

Self-healing space suits among 18 ideas to receive NASA funding


It once required an open mind and an active imagination to believe we could launch humans into space. Now, we take human space flight for granted, but we still need that out-of-the-box thinking to push the boundaries of exploration in this solar system and beyond. That's where NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program comes in. It's meant to foster ideas that sound borderline science fiction but have the potential to become new technologies. Today, NASA announced 18 innovative concepts that will receive NIAC funding.

First ever photo of black hole revealed by astronomers, changing our understanding of the entire universe

The Independent

The first ever photo of a black hole has been revealed by scientists. The stunning image, showing a flaming ring of yellow and red, helped advance our understanding of the universe. Black holes are among the most massive and powerful phenomena in the known universe. But until now, we have not been able to see them because they drag in light. We'll tell you what's true.