Daily Orbit – Crowdsourcing Robotics Research

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,682
    9-10-13: On this episode of the Daily Orbit, engineers look to the public to crowdsource algorithms for robotic swarms, NASA is working on a smartcamera, and caffeine addiction gets some attention.

    Researchers are giving you a pass to play video games…

    Why is NASA so “smart?”

    Fuel for you and your car….

    And grounds for more discussion on the Daily Orbit!

    Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit I’m Emerald Robinson.

    Engineers are swarming to video games to learn more about robotics.  An ongoing study out of Rice University is using free online games to crowd source information to help them refine control algorithms for robotic swarms.  And anyone can play! Each time a player successfully navigates a group of robots through a maze or obstacle, the website gathers data about how the task was completed.  Researchers are looking at how such swarms could have medical applications such as swarming a tumor with a payload of anti-cancer drugs using MRi signals.  One post-doctoral researcher at Rice demonstrated how a swarm of randomly scattered robots could be directed to form a complex shape…in this case the letter R.   So citizen scientists unite, to play and win—for science’s sake!

    So there are smartphones, smartwatches, smart toilets, and now NASA’s working on a smartcamera—with an otherworldly application.  A team of scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing a new camera system for future exploration rovers to not only take pictures of alien rocks but to also think about what the images mean.  Currently there is a bottleneck of sorts on information coming back to Earth from the Rover Curiosity.  Scientists at NASA are hoping to install a camera on future rovers that can make decisions on its own—for instance, it could take a picture of a rock, analyze it, and decide if it should keep digging in that area or move on. Now that’ s smart camera.  Right now there is a delay in communication between rovers on Mars and scientists telling the rover what to do as the signal transmits through space.  This delay makes exploration further into the solar system more difficult, but NASA hopes this new camera will help speed things along.  Smart thinking NASA 😉

    And once again scientists are looking to nature for inspiration.  A new study of the tropical blue Morpho butterfly found that its wings have properties that could be mimicked to create a variety of applications from protective clothing to industrial sensors.   Tiny tree-like nanostructures on the scale of Morpho wings give it its characteristic metallic blue iridescence.   And it’s understanding the physical nanostructures that create this iridescence that scientists say is helping them to understand natural photonics, and implement these “design ideas” in new technologies--- like bio-inspired displays, fabrics, and cosmetics. 

    You know me, I think coffee is one of the greatest gifts on Earth.  Here’s more grounds for its greatness:  Not only is coffee the fuel you need to start your day, but new research says that it could potentially power your car and appliances as well.  Researchers at the University of Cincinnati say old coffee grounds could be converted into energy sources like biodiesel and activated carbon.  In their experiment, oil was extracted from the grounds and converted into biodeisel, which was then purified by the remaining grounds—which were then burned as an alternative source of electricity.  And this is cool; researchers collected waste coffee grounds from an on-campus Starbucks for their experiments.   That’s where I fuel up in the morning too.  

    And if I don’t get my morning coffee—you don’t want to be around me. I am definitely addicted to caffeine and I have to have it!  A new article published in the Journal of Caffeine Research says that caffeine dependence is far from harmless. Caffeine is one of the two most widely used psychoactive drugs on the planet, second only to alcohol.   If you have two-and-half-cups per day—congratulations you’re probably an addict. Based upon a meta-analysis of 122 previous published studies, scientists determined that more research needs to be conducted in order to better understand the clinical signs, risk factors, and best approaches for treating the addiction. So let me get this right—there was a study that found out that there needs to be more studies on caffeine addiction?

    And that’s your Daily Orbit!  See you tomorrow!