Category: robotics

The Rovers still rove

Some good news from NASA regarding the Mars Rovers.

I still find it amazing that those rovers were only supposed to be on the surface of Mars for 90 sols (Martian Days). They’ve now been up for 1,271 sols, or 14.1 times longer than they were supposed to be active.

Those rovers are a testament to engineering at its very best. It is nice to see that it still exists somewhere in the U.S. and NASA still pulls it off.

What I can’t imagine is the excess data being sent by the rovers. They had their hands full with 90 sols of info, now they’ve got much more than that. While the Viking landers may have found life, the rovers Opportunity and Spirit may help us get a much more focused picture of what that life on Mars actually happens to be.

So kudos to NASA and Steve Squyres on the re-starting of the rovers. For a while there I thought all was lost but it isn’t.

Now playing: Jack Johnson – Better Together
via FoxyTunes

Robots as fruit pickers

This is quite stunning. Right now there are no technical obstacles to such a scenario, and there are active projects in furtherance of such goals. The company behind all this is Vision Robotics.

This brings up some interesting points.

If you hadn’t noticed, more than 50% of the assembly of a car (Click Car once you open the link and note that was 1994!) is done by robots and the only reason the whole car isn’t robot assembled is political, not technical. The activities involved are relatively simplistic and easy to replicate. Computers are another area where robotics do the ‘heavy lifting’ of actually creating the circuit boards. The only thing is that labor is so cheap in Asia that it still makes sense to have humans dropping the chips onto the board. That won’t last long.

And we’re surrounded by simple robots if you really think about it.

Tap a button on your CD drive and the tray slides out and maybe even slides back in. A printer or scanner is also a robot. In the case of the printer it moves paper through at varying speeds below a print head that also moves. Scanners just move a scanning head across the page. An automatic dishwasher is another example of robotics. And if you really want to get technical cars are robots of a sort too. Cars also promise to become more robotic with the ITS program. The last element of danger in a car is the driver and it won’t be long before the driver is removed from control.

There is one thing robots do almost universally is to displace unskilled human labor. And that’s where you run into the problems.

What happens when the entire process of growing the food, processing the food and all the transportations steps in between occur? You essentially throw away human labor and create an untouchable class of society.

And you know sure as hell that even when robotics reduce overall costs that companies will NOT pass along any saving to the end consumer. Instead it’ll drive that money straight into profit for shareholders. Talk about the new sharecropping!

Of course robot fruit pickers may all be for moot if we can’t figure out robots to replace the bees that are mysteriously disappearing.

The ultra-militarization of police

I got this from Lew Rockwell’s site. Rockwell and I disagree on principle, but his guest writers make some very good points.

In this one A.D. Lelong explains why police shoot first then ask questions.

In the article Lelong is correct in stating that training indicates a three round burst, then assessment. I know this to be correct from talking with current and former police officers. I’ve actually learned a lot.

I’ve learned that not everyone can be an unthinking automaton. As the posting explains, when adrenaline starts flowing, and you’ve got a weapon that’s not only easy to reload but easy to fire, you’re just asking for trouble. Not only that but mixing in proactive policing makes it that much worse.

My version of proactive policing is to get the cops back on the beat again. Get them to know the people in their patrol area, and in some cities they’re doing just that. But we’re rapidly crossing a line, where intelligence gathering is the name of the game. In essence, someone like me who is openly critical of those in power would be seen as a threat. Police are moving from tactical to strategic.

It’s just that I don’t trust my fellow human beings to make the correct judgment in times of emotional stress. Is the answer automatons? We’ve seen the ire that our current batch of automatons creates. Those would be red light cameras and speed cameras. But what about taking it further and using robotics? Would that be acceptable? After all a robot doesn’t experience adrenaline surges, or get emotional for that matter. Companies are already creating prototypes of patrol robots, including Samsung’s latest that will patrol the border between North and South Korea. A basic google search on ‘patrol robot’ turns up a few interesting links.