Robotic salvation

He shivered.  The cold was starting to creep through him.  He pushed at the concrete beam again, but it did not give.  Thirst welled up inside him as he recalled the water cooler that had been just across the office before the building collapsed four days earlier.  He tried to put it from his mind.  Suddenly a low-powered drilling noise sounded above him.  Dust started to fall on to his face, causing him to cough and raise his free arm against the downfall.  When the dust stopped he moved his arm away.  In front of him a white plastic shape was pulling itself through the opening.  Once through it reconfigured itself into the shape of a humanoid.  It popped open a compartment on its chest and retrieved a water bottle.  Holding it in front of him the machine said, “Drink this.”

DARPA has announced a competition with a $2 million prize for robotics and software enthusiasts to build a machine that can be used to help out in disaster situations.  The winning robot will need to perform a series of tasks including using tools and vehicles. See the press release here: Go to the challenge page here:



The running robot

Slow at first and then with increasing speed the robot sprints across the harsh terrain.  Its razor-like feet digging into the rugged surface propelling it forward.  It knows how long it has to reach the waypoint and the consequences if it fails to get there in time.  It assigns even more processing power to its pattern recognition algorithms, keen to identify any obstacles before they hinder its progress.

Everybody’s favourite funding source DARPA has release a video of a ‘cheetah’ robot that has just set the record for the fastest legged robot.  It can run at an impressive 18mph, which would allow it to complete the 100m in under 13 seconds.  I will keep a look out for it when the olympics kick off in London later this year.  See a video and press release here:


Researching AI by building systems modelled on the brain at IBM

IBM have made a lot of noise in the AI space, with their recent remarkable Watson victory – using a massive compute power and sophisticated algorithms to beat humans at natural language knowledge tasks.

Another of their projects has just received a $21m injection from everyone’s favourite future-tech funding source DARPA.  The money supports the SyNAPSE project which links IBM staffers with a host of researchers at top universities.

I’ve dabbled in research in this area myself and fully appreciate the challenge and complexity of even trying to frame the problem correctly.  I look forward to seeing the outcome of the SyNAPSE project – if not today, then at some point in the future.

If you want to check out the SyNAPSE project, then visit the IBM page:

SyNAPSE: A cognative computing project from IBM research