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NASA Robotics Space Technology

NASA Is Making New Robots That Can Control Themselves ( 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: NASA wants humans and robots to work together as teams. To ensure that, the space agency's autonomous robotics group is currently developing new technology to improve how humans explore the solar system, and how robots can help. When NASA began working with remotely operated robots several years ago, Fong said the scientists needed a piece of software that would allow them to look at terrain and sensor data coming from autonomous robots. That led to the creation of VERVE, a "3D robot user interface," which allows scientists to see and grasp the three-dimensional world of remotely operated robots. VERVE has been used with NASA's K10 planetary rovers (a prototype mobile robot that can travel bumpy terrain), with its K-Rex planetary rovers (robot to determine soil moisture), with SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) on the International Space Station (ISS), and with the new robot Astrobee (a robot that can fly around the ISS). In 2013, NASA carried out a series of tests with astronauts on the ISS, during which astronauts who were flying 200 miles above Earth remotely operated the K10 planetary rover in California. Because of time delay, astronauts can't just "joystick a robot," said Maria Bualat, deputy lead of intelligent robotics group at the NASA Ames Research Center. "You need a robot that can operate on its own, complete tasks on its own," she said. "On the other hand, you still want the human in the loop, because the human brings a lot of experience and very powerful cognitive ability that can deal with issues that the autonomy's not quite ready to handle." That's why, according to NASA, human capabilities and robotic capabilities comprise a powerful combination.
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NASA Is Making New Robots That Can Control Themselves

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  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2017 @04:16AM (#53687897)

    When they're heading out to explore the far reaches of the solar system, it's vital that any robot passengers be able to control themselves during the long trip because if they can't control themselves NASA WILL TURN THIS ROCKET AROUND RIGHT NOW!

  • Never mind. I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords.
  • You mean like an autonomous robot?
    • Yeah, like a robot thats really a robot and not just a drone called a robot.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      The Mars rovers already have a degree of automated navigation. They can avoid rocks and dodgy terrain on their own. They are set to stop and report a problem if they have to deviate too much from the draft path or encounter excessive obstacles.

  • I think the first one is called Hal
    • Would HAL even qualify as a robot? I suppose you could view the ship as his "body", but it always seemed to be more of a computer than a robot, though the distinction isn't a very large one.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The recurring team of Powell and Donovan are testing a new model of robot on an asteroid mining station. This model has six subsidiary robots, described as "fingers", which it controls via positronic fields, a means of transmission not yet fully understood by roboticists. When the humans are not in contact, the robot stops producing ore. It cannot recall the time periods when it stops mining, and states that it finds this just as puzzling as the humans do.

    • Sounds interesting, will add to reading list. Thanks!

      • If you are going to look into it, you might as well get the whole book. This story is in the I, Robot book. []

        It is a collection of stories that explore the edge cases of the Three Laws of Robotics, and limitations of the robots in his science fiction writings.

  • Make it fucking president, then.
  • Hasn't anyone watched a sci-fi movie in the past 20 years?
  • SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites)

    Wow, someone really wanted that thing to be named "SPHERES".

  • There have been several discussions around a Mars colonization project but the challenges around how long it takes to get there with current propulsion technology and the human lifespan seem to present challenges. Perhaps with sophisticated enough robots, we could send them instead? That would be neat!
  • I feel relief. I keep seeing stories that Al is going to be in control of our robots. Presumably this is Al Gore. I would much rather that our killer robot overlords be able to operate freely with no one in control of them than to be under the will of Al.
  • If humans will be working with "robots that can control themselves", we'll need humans that can also control themselves.
    • I came here to say just this. Thanks for saving me some typing, or not. I agree, in any case. Can humans who literally cannot control themselves design robots that can? Sure people who meditate a lot can control themselves a lot but most of us can't. This lack of control is baked into us as part of being human so maybe all we need to do is take normal humans and remove the part that makes us humans and we end up with the desired robots, or we could just clone off some CEOs (they are known to lack all h

  • These robots solved the maze. Arnold and Dr. Ford will be proud.
  • We are giving robots to much power and intelligence. Do we not think what will happen when they actually outsmarten us. Will robots control humans. Almost like the next terminator movie. We were warned by Hollywood. ... then he became the governor Thanks Hal from

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.