This week, the Crave crew uncovers a cupcake-dispensing ATM, hot-tub boats, and a sonic weapon that confounds your enemy into silence. Plus, a concept Xbox controller that massages your thumbs, merit badges for nerdlings, and a DARPA cheetah bot that will be chasing us in our nightmares.
DARPA is quickly becoming the supplier of my nightmares.
As if the monstrous AlphaDog wasn't intimidating enough, it now has a feline friend, the "Cheetah," that will certainly have you running for the hills. Chances are you won't be able to outrun it, though.
Created by Boston Dynamics, Cheetah is allegedly now the fastest legged robot on the planet. DARPA released a video today showing the bot running at various speeds on a laboratory treadmill, ultimately hitting its maximum speed of 18 mph. This breaks the previous land-speed record of 13.1 mph set back in 1989. … Read more
This week, Lego goes crazy for Minecraft (even if we don't); the Death Star gets a real-world estimate; DARPA invests in making "Avatar" a reality; and Eric and Bonnie make their Barbie dreams come true. In Geek News, Eric is obsessed with Mass Effect 3, and shows off a mashup of "The Prestige" and the latest "Dark Knight" trailers.
Could soldiers of the future fight battles in robot bodies controlled from afar? DARPA apparently thinks so, and the agency wants to create an army of surrogate fighting droids.
The U.S. military's research wing apparently is planning surrogates like in the film "Avatar" but with robots instead of giant Na'vi. It has a $7 million program code-named "Avatar" in its 2013 budget, according to Wired.
The robots would reduce risk to human fighters, just as thousands of aerial drones are already keeping pilots out of harm's way. … Read more
Remember the original BigDog? That funny robot pack animal? Well, a supersized version has been let off the leash--and it ain't so funny anymore.
We last saw the brute when Boston Dynamics unveiled the AlphaDog prototype last year. Even in a harness, it looked pretty mean and could haul 400 pounds without even panting.
This latest incarnation, though, makes its predecessor look quite poodle-like. As seen in the video below, DARPA recently took AlphaDog, aka the Legged Squad Support System, or LS3, out for a walk in the woods and probably scared off every living creature for miles around. … Read more
A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency research team at Harvard University created a handheld electrode that puts out fire with no water, chemicals, or smothering.
Details are sketchy as to how exactly the Harvard wand, whose technology may eventually find its way into fire suppression systems for military ships and vehicles, works. We do know, however, that the Instant Fire Suppression program is looking at the feasibility of using electromagnetic fields, ion injection, and acoustics to put out flames. As DARPA so poetically explains, flames are just "cold plasmas comprising mobile electrons and slower positive ions."
There's something very Harry Potter-ish about the flame suppression wand. I almost expected to hear a scientist muttering, "Aguamenti!" during the demonstration video, below.… Read more
The next time you feel like swatting a bug, consider whether it might be packing military sensors that are gathering data about its surroundings. And maybe you, too.
Researchers at the University of Michigan are working on ways to generate power from insects' kinetic motion and body heat while bugging the bugs as well.
In a paper in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, Khalil Najafi and collaborators created piezoelectric generators that harvest small amounts of electricity from the movements of the green June beetle.
The power could be used to charge a bug-board battery for sensors that would relay … Read more
The U.S. Army has successfully tested a hypersonic aircraft that can travel five times the speed of sound and reach anywhere on Earth in under an hour.
Described by the Pentagon as a "glide vehicle, designed to fly within the earth's atmosphere at hypersonic speed and long range," the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) was launched aboard a rocket from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.
Love brainteasers? Brainiacs from a California university hope you can help decipher a mind-draining 10,000-piece puzzle through their collaborative Web site.
The DARPA Shredder Challenge aims to discover new ways the U.S. military can process and decode shredded documents confiscated in war zones, as well as test vulnerabilities in the shredding methods used by the U.S. national security community.
The Shredder Challenge is made up of five separate puzzles in which the number of documents, the documents' subject matter, and the shredding methods vary to present challenges of increasing difficulty. To complete each problem, participants must provide the answer to a puzzle embedded in the content of the reconstructed document.
Three out of the five puzzles are still available to be solved before the contest ends December 4 and DARPA awards $50,000 as the prize. Manuel Cebrian, a research scientist at the University of California at San Diego, and a team from UCSD have created a way to solve the remaining enigmas by "combining advanced computer vision methods with shared tasking and referral-based crowdsourcing," says the USCD Web site. … Read more
Robots will play a greater role in fighting wars in the future, and BigDog wants a piece of that action.
BigDog is both the silliest and scariest military robot out there. The recent video below from creator Boston Dynamics provides a retrospective on the DARPA-funded quadruped, which is designed as a load-carrying mule for soldiers.
The vid shows six years of BigDog evolution from 2004 through 2010. The 240-pound, all-terrain cyber-canine can tackle slopes up to 35 degrees, rubble, snow, mud, and water, and can carry a 340-pound load. That's handy since the average soldier load has increased dramatically in recent years.
You can't hear it in the video, but it sounds like a go-kart because it runs on a one-cylinder Leopard go-kart engine.
Its sensors include stereo vision, GPS, a gyroscope, and LIDAR--you can kick it and it'll keep on trucking. The machine once set a record for traveling 12.8 miles without stopping or refueling. It can run at speeds up to 4 mph.
No doubt BigDog is impressive, even awesome in its relentlessness, but also ridiculous. Boston Dynamics once had fun "weaponizing" the brute, perhaps inspired by that jocular BigDog Beta video by a pair of spandex-clad parodists.
One serious follow-up to BigDog is the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), also designed to lighten the load for dismounted troops.
"That machine will carry 400 pounds of payload on 20-mile missions in rough terrain, where wheeled vehicles can't go," says Marc Raibert of Boston Dynamics. "We have a lab prototype that we will show soon, and expect the first field prototype ready in summer 2012."
And since Boston Dynamics is working on other animal robots for the military that could conceivably run as fast as 70 mph, it's hard not to wonder whether BigDog could have the last laugh and the joke will be on us. … Read more