After 15 years exploring the surface of Mars, the Opportunity rover’s mission finally came to an end earlier this week.
The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Tuesday, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.
The Rover’s 90 day mission kept going for 15 years, during which it found proof of liquid water on the surface of the red planet and set the off-world driving record.
Opportunity sent back a huge stack of photos, which you can find all over the internet. I was goint to post some of these, but then decided to leave you with XKCD instead.
This is cool. Researchers at MIT have developed a robot that can play Jenga.
At first glance, it doesn’t sound like much — computers can play chess, go and a variety of other games. What sets this apart, though, is that Jenga is a game that requires physically moving blocks around. And while this is relatively easy for humans, teaching a robot to move stacked blocks without collapsing the tower requires a collection of physical skills that has not — until now — been attempted with robots.
Combining interactive perception and manipulation – whereby the robot would touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks – is extremely difficult to simulate and therefore the robot has to learn in the real world.
So the researchers placed a two-pronged industrial robot arm with a force sensor in its wrist by the Jenga tower and allowed it to explore rather than using traditional machine-learning techniques that could require data from tens of thousands of block-extraction attempts in order to capture every possible scenario.
Stickboy (drums) was created to exacting specifications. 4 arms, 2 legs, 1 head, no brain. he plays a Pearl 14 piece kit with double kick. stickboy junior, the bastard child of an unknown mother takes control of the hihat shuffle. inception date 2007
Fingers (guitar) joined stickboy in 2009 and brings 78 purpose built fingers, enough to play the entire fret board and pluck.
Bones (bass) is the highest precision bass player in known existence, and the youngest member of the band. inception date 2012.
For those that don’t know, Big Trak is a programmable tank. It was popular (with me, at least) in the 1980s and reissued in all its retro glory a few years ago.
Big Trak, if you don’t remember, was an amazingly cool-looking 6-wheeled tank that you could program yourself to move around whilst firing its photon beam. Happily, not much has changed with this new version, which means you can not only relive the fun you had as a kid but, if you’ve got children of your own, pass it on through the family.
A few simple instructions can make your Big Trak go forward a certain number of lengths, fire, and then come back to you. The onboard memory will store up to 16 commands in one go, which means you can easily have your faithful tank-servant completing some complex manoeuvres in no time.
I have one and Alexandre is fascinated by it. So much so that he can now code up the basic manoeuvres himself…
Turning is still a challenge, but we’ll get there.
I while ago, The Register carried a story about a job ad that someone had spotted in Spain. It seems that Husqvarna are looking for a Madrid-based Automatic Lawnmower Supervisor capable of the demanding task of watching the grass grow while the Husqvarna Automower does the work for you.
I think I have found the ideal candidate for the job.