Robots – Flying cars have been around in science fiction for many years. Now though we are on the verge of having them become part of our everyday lives. That said, don’t expect your next call for Lyft or Uber to be answered by a flying autonomous taxi.
The Boeing autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) shown above is just a prototype and so far it has only demonstrated the ability to take off, hover, and land. This is a 30-foot model is all electric and is designed to have a 50-mile range. Boeing NeXt is also working on a larger fully autonomous, electric cargo plane that will be able to carry up to 500 pounds.
Beyond the technical hurdles of building a flying car are the many regulatory issues that stand in their way. Needless to say, it will be a few years before we see these in our sky.
Boeing is not the only company working on flying cars. Among those interested in this market are Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Uber, and Toyota. These flying cars are intended to offer a transportation solution that will be able to carry passengers across urban centers where ground transportation would be slow or impractical.
Robots – This aerial display performed by Intel actually took place last July 15. It was uploaded to YouTube later that month. The video was captured and published by The Sacramento Bee. The synopsis per the YouTube post:
Intel dazzled its Folsom audience on July 15, 2018 with a spectacular light show designed to feature 1,500 drones, in an effort to outdo its previous world record of 1,218 Intel Shooting Star drones. The performance displayed multicolored choreography including bright, fireworks-like orbs. A single pilot mans the entire fleet of light-emitting remotely controlled machines.
This display was designed around 1500 of their Intel Shooting Star drones in an attempt to set a new record. Their prior record was 1218 drones. It was also intended to celebrate Intel’s 50th anniversary on July 18, 2018.
I think that we will see more and more aerial light shows produced by drones in the future. Personally, I would rather see this kind of performance instead of traditional fireworks.
Coffee – Coffee delivered by drone? Well, why not.
I saw the article “IBM Files a Patent for Coffee Delivery Drone Which Knows You Want Your Coffee” recently that describes how an IBM patent would work. A wearable device would determine the customer’s ‘need’ for a caffeine fix and make the delivery. The system might learn personal coffee preferences or when each day a delivery should be made.
When I worked at IBM my office was in an open cubicle farm area with a high ceiling. This would have worked great there. I am not so sure about other more closed office areas. Still, I think that this is ‘outside the box’ thinking on the part of IBM engineers. Something like this might well be the first use case for drone delivery.
Better yet, at least for me, would be a completely automated system for the home. My Apple Watch could signal it when I woke of a morning. The automatic device could grind the coffee beans, brew me a cup and deliver it to me by drone. Personally, I would much rather have a flying cup of coffee than a flying car.
I have read where there are some restaurants in China that deliver orders to tables via robots. How far of a jump is it to coffee delivery by drone?
A large “hoverbike” like quadcopter is being developed for the military, the JTARV(Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle) intended for autonomous delivery of supplies to troops. The current vehicle can carry up to 300 pounds over short distances. The goal is to increase the range to 125 miles and to increase the payload to 800 pounds.
The prototype was flown recently at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
If the development is successful, and the goals are met, then these could serve many uses in the front lines.
We have all seen the hype about deliveries by drone. Now Amazon has begun some trial deliveries in the UK and hope to expand these efforts. The ‘Prime Air’ autonomous drone deliveries are just a trial for now. I don’t think that this will put UPS or FedEx out of business anytime soon, but it is a step towards automated delivery.
Disney – Disney Springs is the expanded and rebranded Downtown Disney shopping, dining and entertainment area within Disney World Florida. Now that the FAA has relaxed overflight regulations, Disney has announced that drones will be part of the light show for the upcoming Holiday season.
As Intel has recently demonstrated, hundreds of drones can be controlled by a single operator in complex re-programmed displays. I am not surprised that Disney is looking to augment and someday even replace the nightly fireworks displays with drone light shows.
In early October 2016 Intel demonstrated its new “Shooting Star” drone. This drone has been designed specifically for multi-drone light shows. The drones weigh less than a pound and are capable of displaying more than 4 billion colors from the build in LED lights. This drone is designed specifically for entertainment and has a 20 minute flight time.
In the demonstration conducted near Munich, Germany, 500 drones were flown by a single pilot, setting a new Guinness Book of World Records for the most drones operated at one time by a single pilot.
Intel had set a record almost a year ago flying 100 drones in an exhibit. One can easily imagine light shows in the near future at many events that are drone based instead of fireworks.
Still working to catch up on all of the robot/automation/AI articles that have come out recently.
The Video “Rise”
In the short video “Rise” the inevitable rise of the machine comes, but it is the result of the mistreatment of our creations. An interesting look at a possible future. It is a short (5 minutes) but very well done video portraying robots as being persecuted by humans. The robots rise up to fight for their survival.
Read more here.
Drones Race on ESPN
Did you think that Drone Racing was a real sport? Apparently ESPN does. the International Drone Racing Association has made a distribution deal to add live Drone Racing to ESPN coverage. The first event will be the US National Drone Racing Championships this August. Presumably this is an effort by ESPN to appeal to the digital generation. Read more here.
Designing Creativity and Self-Awareness
Can creativity and self-awareness be designed into the AI code behind robots? It looks like Machine Learning may replace programming as the way to train robots. The Creative Machines Labs, part of the engineering school at Columbia University, is actively investigating that route. The researchers envision biology inspired machines that evolve, and ‘think’. Not only will these machines be able to develop new ideas, but they will implement them as well. Read more here.
There has been considerable efforts on robots that walk or roll across the ground, but there is ample need for robots to probe the waters depths too. This snake like robot can easily navigate tight spaces. I can see where this sort of robot would have many uses around ships or off-shore drilling platforms. I found watching the video below a little creepy.
Read more here.
$100 Million Investment
Russian Dimitri Grishin has expanded the fund he set up Grishin Robotics to promote consumer robots from $25 million to $100 million. Grishin Robotics has invested in eight companies so far. The larger fund will let Grishin Robotics greatly expand their investment in consumer robotics. Read more here.
InMoov Takes Advantage of Open Source
InMoov is a 3D printed, Open Source, human size robot that can be used for a variety of research efforts. This will open up many opportunities for researchers with limited budgets. Because the parts can be printed on many 3D printers, hobbyists can take advantage of this design as well. Read more here.
The US Army is looking to roll out tiny drones allowing soldiers on the front lines to have remote sensing capability. This would allow them to look around corners, into buildings and over hills without exposing themselves. The hope is to have these in the field by 2018.
Drones such as these are not new to the military. The British use the 0.5 oz (15 gram) Prox Dynamics’ Black Hornet minicopter in such a role already.
I came across this article (Gestures improve communication, even with robots) telling how British researchers have found that having robots gesture while they talk helps communication with humans. In this study the gestures were first made by a human, then duplicated by the robot.
I think it will be harder to have robots spontaneously gesture with their speech. Will this make robots more understandable, or make people more uncomfortable around them?
African Delivery Drones
There has been a lot of talk about using drones for deliveries here in the US. In July of this year drones will start dropping medical supplies to remote hospitals and clinics in western Rwanda.
These will be relatively small packages weighing up to only 3.5 pounds, but the drones can fly at up to 180 miles an hour. It is estimated that the aircraft will be able to make between 50 and 150 deliveries a day, so the actual amount of supplies able to be delivered is significant. With this drone delivery network, supplies can be ordered and delivered to locations up to 90 miles away within 30 minutes.
The drones to be used are being supplied by Zipline. This startup has a complete business plan around the delivery of medical supplies. The aircraft will fly to the delivery location then drop the supplies by parachute.
A few things that are robot and AI related.
I saw this article “Building a humanoid Hollywood star” yesterday and was surprised at how one man could create such a realistic (think uncanny valley realistic) robot as a hobby project. This $50,000 project resulted in a life-size robot that looks remarkably like Scarlett Johansson.
3D printing is one of the technologies that enabled 42 year old Ricky Ma of Hong Kong to construct his robot. The robot motions are not very smooth and it has a limited vocabulary, but I think the results are amazing considering he is doing this on his own.
Follow the link above to the Reuters story that includes a brief video showing his robot in operation.
(video from Unmanned Cowboys web site)
Graduate student Ben Loh has taken his Phd project, and with the assistance of Oklahoma State University faculty and some business partners, has created Unmanned Cowboys LLC. What makes Loh’s drone, ATLAS (All Terrain Land and Air Sphere) somewhat unique is that it is spherical and it can fly, hover or roll on the ground. Unmanned Cowboys is targeting the drone for use by emergency responders, the military and private companies.
DARPA will soon christen it’s 130 ft autonomous drone anti-submarine ship. The ACTUV (Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel) is currently undergoing tests. In addition to tracking unknown submarines, the vessel could be tasked to deliver supplies or perform reconnaissance.