Headline, December 13 2023/ DEBUT : ''' MAD SCIENCE MAT '''



ROBOTS  AND ROSARY : EVERYONE AT ONE TIME thought that self-driving cars were a technological dead end. But DARPA doubled and then tripled down with a challenge in 2005 and another in 2007.

Now, a decade after that unpromising start, self-driving cars are considered practically a done deal. Google's fleet of autonomous Lexus SUVs collectively drives about 10,000 miles [ 16,000 km ] a week.

Its own home-brewed prototype self-driving cars will debut on public roads in Mountain View, Calif., this summer. Carmakers like General Motors and Mercedes Benz as well as startups like Uber are also seriously exploring self-driving vehicles.

If humanoid robots follow the timeline of the Grand Challenge, or anything like it, we could be living alongside our mechanical doppelgangers inside of 15 years.


THE WAREHOUSE THAT SERVES AS THE IHMC's DARPA Robotics Challenge war room is an unimposing structure on an otherwise undistinguished street corner, next door to a home-health care service.

From the outside it's not obviously associated in any way with bleeding-edge mad science. Nobody answered the front door when I arrived, but a rear door turned out to be unlocked.

Inside, engineers milled around quietly in front of a wall of screens - five TVs and eight monitors - that showed the robot from various points of view, the world from the robot's point of view, the outputs of various sensors and lines of rapidly scrolling code. A couple of robo-bros orbited the office on RipStiks.

This team, with a few additions and subtractions, has been working together for two years. '' The people who kicked off the robotics program here have always had their background in walking and bipedal robots and humanoid robots and stuff like that,'' says Doug Stephen, an engineer at IHMC.

'' The DARPA Robotics Challenge is the biggest thing to happen research-wise in humanoid robotics in a long time. So it was a no-brainer : if we wanted to be relevant in the field and do cutting edge cool stuff in that area, this was the thing to go out for.''

The IHMC's robot, its physical frame at least, was not actually made in Florida, or even by the IHMC. Like six other teams coming into the finals, the IHMC elected not to build its own hardware but instead to use an off-the-shelf robotic chassis called Atlas, which is made by a company called Boston Dynamics.

[Like Schaft, Boston Dynamics is now owned by Google - the search giant bought it in late 2013] An Atlas robot is 6 ft 2 in [ 190 cm] tall, weighs 386 lb [175 kg] and costs over $1 million. In the case of the IHMC robot, its weird sensor-studded head was made by yet another company, Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Robotics.

What makes the IHMC's robot different from the others, and on the evidence better, is the software that tells it how to walk and balance and interpret the world around it.

The primary source of this software expertise is Jerry Pratt, a soft-spoken, a soft-shouldered engineer who leads the DARPA Robotics Challenge team at the IHMC.

As an undergraduate, Pratt double-majored in computer science and mechanical engineering at MIT; robotics seemed like a natural way to combine the two.

He's been making robots that walk for about 20 years, starting when he was a graduate student, and he's generally acknowledged to be among the world's expert on the subject.

When I visited the IHMC, there were 47 days to go before the finals - a countdown was posted on the wall - and the robot was nowhere near ready. DARPA had upped the ante considerably since the semifinals : whereas in the semis the robots were allowed to be tethered by cables, in the finals they will have to be freestanding.

That means no safety lines to catch your robot if it falls over, and a 386-lb robot falls hard. No power cables : all power will now have to come from on board, hence the massive backpack battery. No data lines : all communication between team and robots will be wireless.

The Honour and Serving of the Global Operational Research on Robots, Robotics,  Startups, Challenges, History, Progress and Future, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Lev Grossman.

With respectful dedication to the Global Founder Framers of !WOW! and then Scientists, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See You all prepare for Great Global Elections on : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter X !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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