U.S. Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey, who was an actual rocket scientist, actually beat Watson in a private 'Jeopardy' match at a Washington hotel. After beating the IBM computer during a round of competition, Watson managed to beat other Reps by about $10,000 after Final Jeopardy. Holt claims that he participated in the event simply because it would draw attention to the need for the government to invest in research and science, but we know that secretly he was doing the happy dance and saying, "Goody, goody."
The Google-promoted Lunar X-Prize has been narrowed down to 29 teams from 17 countries. The winner of the $30 million will get to send their low-budget robot to the Moon, where it will send back photos. The competition was first announced in 2007 and has a target date of completion by 2015. The teams vary in make-up from University groups to commercial businesses and some of them have already contacted spacecraft companies to transport their bots. Break a robotic leg and let the games begin.
The latest ugly babybot to take the prize is AFFETTO, a robotic head modeled after a toddler's face, from Osaka University. The intent is to produce realistic facial expressions and the team has been working on the project for about a year. Intended to be used for studying interaction with human caregivers, he does have a certain Winston Churchill look about him. You can read the entire story via the link.
After a study of 56 stroke survivors with paralysis on one side, it was determined that those who received robotic therapy gained more arm and shoulder function. Kayoko Takahashi, ScD at Kitasato University, says that robot therapists are better at repetition which re-educates the brain. The team presented their study at ASA's International Stroke Conference 2011.
Just in case you missed it, somehow Chevy managed to combine NASA's R2 with football as the astrobot selected his MVPs for this Superbowl. On the pre-game show at 3:18 p.m., his choices were Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers or Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Did you notice how they kept him behind a table so that nobody would notics he was legless?
Since he has not yet left the planet, NASA's Robonaut 2 will make its first public appearance at the Superbowl. Due to take off on Discovery Feb. 24, the torso will appear with Howie Long during the preshow activities at 2 p.m. on Fox. No info is available on which side he favors, although he might want to make nice with the team that represents metal.
Japan sent an unmanned cargo ship to the ISS Jan. 22. The Kounotori 2 (the name means 'white stork') was launched atop an expendible H-2B rocket and hooked up Thursday with the space station. This is the second voyage for the Kounotori line as the first went up Sept., 2009. Astronauts used a robotic arm to catch the craft. After about 2 months, they will send it back toward earth filled with trash. It will meet its demise on the return trip by the heat of re-entry.
A team from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will be sending a gliding robot over part of the Australian coast that was recently flooded. Sensors will measure data such as light, oxygen, organic matter and temperature that will help them to understand the effects that the disaster had on the Moreton Bay. 3D maps will be created from the CSIRO data for further study.
A University of Washington team of students have been playing with Kinect and robots, but not to play games. Instead, they are adapting the controller to assist in robotic surgery. Physicians usually use joysticks and small cameras to see the inside of a patient, but there is no "feel" to the operation. UW Grad student Fredrik Ryden wrote a code that allows the Kinect to function in 3D and puts an electronic restriction so that the tool will not go too far. It is estimated that using the controller saved the team about $50,000 in funding, but still has a ways to go before being released.
Josh Bongard, of the University of Vermont, has determined that if you build a simple robot, it will eventually evolve by itself. Using Legos, he built actual bots and simulated ones that changed over time. Eventually, the simple ones could walk better than those with fixed bodies. Bongard's research is supported by the National Science Foundation and their study on evolutionary robotics.