Weekend Stories: The Martian, News from Outer Space and Educational Robot Kits

The Martian

Good story, pretty good scenario, interesting cast and amazingly well weighted visual effects – everything clings together in the most entertaining movie I’ve seen in a long while. The Martian has Matt Damon in the leading role of astronaut Mark Watney who is left stranded on Mars and is presumed dead by his crew which evacuates the planet during an extremely violent dust storm.

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DJI Inspire 1 vs. Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K – An Overview

DJI Inspire 1 vs Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K

This is a guest contribution by DroneFly.com

With the large number of drones for sale today, it is difficult to make a decision sometimes. A lot of first time drone buyers are torn between the features provided by an upper end drone, like the DJI inspire 1, and the more cost friendly types, like the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K. Rather than leaving you to do all of the research and guess work, we’ve let these two popular heavyweights battle it out, and here are the results.

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RoboDK: An Offline Programming and 3D Simulation Software for Industrial Robots

In robotics and automation benefits of software simulation are apparent from early stages in the development life cycle of almost any product or system, and this is particularly true for industrial environments where equipment downtime periods are a key factor in the overall efficiency of a process. Today we take a look at RoboDK, a highly versatile development platform for industrial robot offline programming and simulation which supports over 200 industrial robots from leading manufacturers such as ABB, KUKA, Yaskawa, Adept and many more.

Industrial Robot Machining Simulation

Industrial Robot Machining Simulation | Photo: RoboDK

A bit of background, RoboDK is the commercial version of the perhaps better known RoKiSim robotic simulator developed at École de Technologie Supérieure (ETS) in Montreal, Canada by Ph.D. graduate Albert Nubiola. The software became pretty popular over its 3 years of existence so its creator founded RoboDK with the goal to create a more refined product for roboticists worldwide.

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Weekend Stories: Autonomous Drifting, Robot Builds Robots, and more Car Concepts

Immortus Solar Powered 3D Printed Sports Car Concept

RC Car Autonomous Drifting

The first story of today is perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve seen lately. Researchers at MIT’s AeroAstro laboratory have presented an implementation of their new learning algorithm for optimizing control policies based on reinforcement learning effectively obtaining a robotic Ken Block. The starting point for the reinforcement learning algorithm is represented by a set of determined optimal control policies for drifting a remote control car. A set of simulation runs is performed after which the control model optimized by the algorithm is transferred to the physical car. In the demonstration below steady drifting is achieved quite rapidly and we can see how efficiently the algorithm compensates for external factors. Of course the end of the video is just as interesting.

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Microsoft Announces Windows 10 IoT Core Public Release

Earlier this week Microsoft announced the public release of their Windows IoT Core embedded OS, currently supporting the Raspberry Pi 2 and Intel’s MinnowBoard Max development boards. When the project surfaced earlier this year Microsoft’s shift towards the Internet of Things became unequivocal. The new OS is fully integrated with the existing Windows development framework that is familiar and well established.

Windows 10 IoT Family

Windows 10 IoT Family | Photo: Microsoft

The Windows 10 IoT Core is scarcely featured compared not only to mainstream Linux distributions for embedded devices but to the rest of the Windows family as well. Let’s see what this all means.

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Giant Robot Challenge – The Saga Continues

As you may know already Suidobashi Heavy Industries accepted the challenge issued by Megabots on the condition that it will be only a melee combat with no weapons involved. Earlier this week the Megabots team issued another response in which they say they will want to fight in both ways and will further prepare and upgrade the robot for this purpose.

The Americans say that they are assembling a team of engineers and fabricators and will be launching another – hopefully more successful – Kickstarter campaign soon to raise the funds required for this massive purpose – both literally and figuratively. Read more about the challenge here.

August 18 update: MegaBots have launched a campaign to raise US $500,000 to beef up the robot. They plan to upgrade their hydraulics, develop some basic melee combat weapons and make a faster and more agile tracked platform capable of reaching speeds over 20 km/h (15 mph). To ensure odds they’ve also recruited Greg Munson and Troy Roski founders of BattleBots, Mythbusters host Grant Imahara as well as engineers from NASA and IHMC Robotics.

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