Video Friday: Japan’s Giant Gundam Robot Is Nearly Complete

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!): AWS Cloud Robotics Summit – August 18-19, 2020 – [Online Conference] CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference] ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan AUVSI EXPONENTIAL 2020 – October 5-8, 2020 – [Online Conference] IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nev., USA ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Co., USA Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

Shrinking deep learning’s carbon footprint

In June, OpenAI unveiled the largest language model in the world, a text-generating tool called GPT-3 that can write creative fiction, translate legalese into plain English, and answer obscure trivia questions. It’s the latest feat of intelligence achieved by deep learning, a machine learning method patterned after the way neurons in the brain process and store information. But it came at a hefty price: at least $4.6 million and 355 years in computing time, assuming the model was trained on a standard neural network chip, or GPU. The model’s colossal size — 1,000 times larger than a typical language model — is the main factor in its high cost. “You have to throw a lot more computation at something to get a little improvement in performance,” says Neil Thompson, an MIT researcher who has tracked deep learning’s unquenchable thirst for computing. “It’s unsustainable. We have to find more efficient ways to scale deep learning or develop other technologies.” Some of the Continue reading Shrinking deep learning’s carbon footprint

How thoughts could one day control electronic prostheses, wirelessly

The current generation of neural implants record enormous amounts of neural activity, then transmit these brain signals through wires to a computer. But, so far, when researchers have tried to create wireless brain-computer interfaces to do this, it took so much power to transmit the data that the implants generated too much heat to be safe for the patient. A new study suggests how to solve his problem — and thus cut the wires. More details

3 Questions: John Leonard on the future of autonomous vehicles

As part of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future’s new series of research briefs, Professor John Leonard teamed with professor of aeronautics and astronautics and of history David Mindell and with doctoral candidate Erik Stayton to explore the future of autonomous vehicles (AV) — an area that could arguably be called the touchstone for the discussion of jobs of the future in recent years. Leonard is the Samuel C. Collins Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and member of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future. His research addresses navigation and mapping for autonomous mobile robots operating in challenging environments.  Their research brief, “Autonomous Vehicles, Mobility, and Employment Policy: The Roads Ahead,” looks at how the AV transition will affect jobs and explores how sustained investments in workforce training Continue reading 3 Questions: John Leonard on the future of autonomous vehicles

Little Wheeled Robot Puts on New Shoes to Go Offroad

When designing a mobility system for a robot, the goal is usually to come up with one single system that allows your robot to do everything that you might conceivably need it to do, whether that’s walking, running, rolling, swimming, or some combination of those things. This is not at all how humans do it, though: If humans followed the robot model, we’d be walking around wearing some sort of horrific combination of sneakers, hiking boots, roller skates, skis, and flippers on our feet. Instead, we do the sensible thing, and optimize our mobility system for different situations by putting on different pairs of shoes.  At ICRA, researchers from Georgia Tech demonstrated how this shoe swapping could be applied to robots. They haven’t just come up with a robot that can use “swappable propulsors”—as they call the robot’s shoes—but crucially, they’ve managed to get it to the swapping all by Continue reading Little Wheeled Robot Puts on New Shoes to Go Offroad

High Performance Ornithopter Drone Is Quiet, Efficient, and Safe

The vast majority of drones are rotary-wing systems (like quadrotors), and for good reason: They’re cheap, they’re easy, they scale up and down well, and we’re getting quite good at controlling them, even in very challenging environments. For most applications, though, drones lose out to birds and their flapping wings in almost every way—flapping wings are very efficient, enable astonishing agility, and are much safer, able to make compliant contact with surfaces rather than shredding them like a rotor system does. But flapping wing have their challenges too: Making flapping-wing robots is so much more difficult than just duct taping spinning motors to a frame that, with a few exceptions, we haven’t seen nearly as much improvement as we have in more conventional drones. In Science Robotics last week, a group of roboticists from Singapore, Australia, China, and Taiwan described a new design for a flapping-wing robot that offers enough thrust and control authority Continue reading High Performance Ornithopter Drone Is Quiet, Efficient, and Safe

New US postage stamp highlights MIT research

Letter writers across the country will soon have a fun and beautiful new Forever stamp to choose from, featuring novel research from the Media Lab’s Biomechatronics research group.  The stamp is part of a new U.S. Postal Service (USPS) series on innovation, representing computing, biomedicine, genome sequencing, robotics, and solar technology. For the robotics category, the USPS chose the bionic prosthesis designed and built by Matt Carney PhD ’20 and members of the Biomechatronics group, led by Professor Hugh Herr. The image used in the stamp was taken by photographer Andy Ryan, whose portfolio spans images from around the world, and who for many years has been capturing the MIT experience — from stunning architectural shots to the research work of labs across campus. Ryan suggested the bionic work of the biomechatronics group to USPS to represent the future of robotics. Ryan also created the images that became the computing and solar Continue reading New US postage stamp highlights MIT research

An automated health care system that understands when to step in

In recent years, entire industries have popped up that rely on the delicate interplay between human workers and automated software. Companies like Facebook work to keep hateful and violent content off their platforms using a combination of automated filtering and human moderators. In the medical field, researchers at MIT and elsewhere have used machine learning to help radiologists better detect different forms of cancer.  What can be tricky about these hybrid approaches is understanding when to rely on the expertise of people versus programs. This isn’t always merely a question of who does a task “better;” indeed, if a person has limited bandwidth, the system may have to be trained to minimize how often it asks for help. To tackle this complex issue, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have developed a machine learning system that can either make a prediction about a task, or defer the decision Continue reading An automated health care system that understands when to step in

Video Friday: NASA Launches Its Most Advanced Mars Rover Yet

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!): AWS Cloud Robotics Summit – August 18-19, 2020 – [Virtual Conference] CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference] ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan AUVSI EXPONENTIAL 2020 – October 5-8, 2020 – [Virtual Conference] IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.