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US Robots Win Big Down Under

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the but-did-the-teams-afterward-get-bombed dept.

Australia 60

An anonymous reader writes "US teams dominated the MAGIC 2010 autonomous robotics competition, mapping and neutralizing simulated bombs at the 250,000 sq. meter Royal Showgrounds in Adelaide, Australia. Leading the pack with a team of fourteen robots was Team Michigan, principally from the University of Michigan, followed by the University of Pennsylvania, and RASR. This contest marks the beginning of practical robots that not only think for themselves, but also actively coordinate with a human commander."

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60 comments

Oblig. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34278732)

I for one welcome our robot overlords.

"Oblig." is a synonym for "Redundant" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34278884)

I for one welcome our robot overlords.

You're a filthy, stinking, nasty, low-down, pure African nigger.

And I probably shouldn't insult niggers by equating them with a meme regurgitator like you.

MAGIC or ARIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34278746)

Multi Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge.
Publicity department had put in overtime to weasel "Multi" and "Ground" in there for a titillating acronym.

Good to know the US "dominated" a deep field of competition from Turkey and Australia.

No wonder the US robots won (5, Funny)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278752)

All the Australian robots realised they were in Adelaide and were quite happy to let the place get blown to bits.

Re:No wonder the US robots won (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34278792)

Ah yes Adelaide, the only place a bomb would do $5,000,000 worth of improvements.

Re:No wonder the US robots won (0, Redundant)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279094)

Ah yes Adelaide, the only place a bomb would do $5,000,000 worth of improvements.

I guess that you have never been to Detroit. It's difficult for new networks, though:

CNN: "Look at these pictures before the bomb blast in Detroit and after the bomb blast! Do you see the difference?"

Viewer: "No."

Re:No wonder the US robots won (4, Funny)

davidbofinger (703269) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278862)

All the Australian robots realised they were in Adelaide and were quite happy to let the place get blown to bits.

Nonsense! Robots love Adelaide. You didn't think the place was designed for humans, did you? The city's laid out in a nice rational square, the nasty rust-making river is damn-near non-existent and nothing ever happens. It's the sort of place an AI can sit back, chill out and let its hard drive spin down because it knows it won't be needing to make note of anything.

Re:No wonder the US robots won (1)

socceroos (1374367) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278958)

Pfft. What robot fantasy-world are you from?

All the robots I've ever seen are fully into vibrant cities with a great night life. Why, I'm friends with a robot in my local botburb last night who had gotten completely off his tree analysing 5mm plastic washers. Completely filled his residential memory - and swap space. You should have seen the things coming from stdout!!! Segfaulted and when he rebooted the next day and had cleared the memory dump said, "B357 \|/33K3|\|D 3\/4|2". Go figure.

Anyway, my point is, every robot I know is fully into the party life. Getting info is what they're all about.

Re:No wonder the US robots won (-1, Flamebait)

schizz69 (1239560) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279030)

All the australian robots realised they were in Australia, commanded by an Australian. I surprised they didn't just self destruct.

Re:No wonder the US robots won (1)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279048)

All the australian robots realised they were in Australia, commanded by an Australian. I surprised they didn't just self destruct.

And Turkey's chickened-out.

Re:No wonder the US robots won (2, Interesting)

spacemort (1794762) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279912)

Turkey showed up and put on quite a show. However, there was a Japanese team that did not show.

What, no skynet tag? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34278754)

What, no skynet tag yet? Really? I'm impressed, Slashdot.

Afraid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34278762)

Begun, the drone war has

I love robots (2, Insightful)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278766)

Anyone remember the early 80s where there were basic video games, calculators in the department stores, and computers were terribly expensive? You think to yourself,"Maybe someday there will be more computers and video games around." And before that computers were rarer still and more basic. And now we're living in a world where computers are everywhere and are pretty satisfactory. You gotta think maybe in 30 years the world will be populated with decent AI robots of various types. Just like I couldn't conceive of all the types of video games possible in the future then, I can't conceive of all the types of robots possible in the future now. This feeling of,"Anything is possible in the future" brings a warm feeling into my heart. I just hope robots don't become cheap soldiers that any rich guy can own his personal army.

Re:I love robots (2, Funny)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278814)

"I just hope robots don't become cheap soldiers that any rich guy can own his personal army."

They probably will be used for war if they become somewhat useful. That's the most important thing ever, right?

Re:I love robots (3, Interesting)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279028)

I think robots are nice and have loads of practical uses, but honestly I'm just waiting for something like LCARS [memory-alpha.org] to be practical. Integrated compute control of all the major systems in the house, etc.

The only thing that never really made sense to me were typing things out. In Enterprise they had a keyboard of sorts but there weren't nearly enough keys to cover most of the major symbols.

I suppose I'm just in love with the general concept of it.

I just hope robots don't become cheap soldiers that any rich guy can own his personal army.

I imagine eventually the UN is going to draw a line between remote-controlled drones (UAVs like the Predator) and AI bots and forbid AI bots from being used, at the very least, in direct combat. Besides, there are a lot of issues at hand with bots; EMPS, for one. Robots won't be nearly as agile and fast as a human running for his life can be, so I imagine they would be far more vulnerable to specialized weaponry designed to counteract them (or hell, even conventional "big bang" weaponry like grenade launchers, rockets, missiles, etc.) Robots can be hacked and reprogrammed, soldiers cannot so easily. It would be a P.R. disaster if an Army Combat bot is seized by an enemy combatant with off-the-shelf gear and turned on its own soldiers.

I don't believe that robots will be practical enough (cost-wise) to be used as soldiers for at least 20-30 years (if we and/or the international community would even allow such a thing to happen).

Re:I love robots (1, Flamebait)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279896)

Robots can be hacked and reprogrammed, soldiers cannot so easily.

In our current major conflicts, like Afganistan, the risk of rogue drones (which has happened) is insignificant to the huge number of cases where soldiers have turned on us - a noticeable percentage of troops, officers and demolitions experts trained by NATO forces have later went on to support the insurgents. If anything, I'd say that the drones will be more loyal in practice, simply their actions may have more PR-risk.

Re:I love robots (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#34280116)

Citation on troops going turncoat?

And IMO better a human being make the conscious choice to join the enemy side rather than a robot being programmed to flip sides in the middle of a battle. If our own soldiers are jumping ship to live in a cave and shoot RPGs at Humvees, we're doing something very, very wrong.

Re:I love robots (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34281142)

Robots won't be nearly as agile and fast as a human running for his life can be

You can outrun a motorcycle when you're on foot? Robots don't have to be anthropomorphic, and usually aren't.

Re:I love robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34292446)

You can outrun a motorcycle when you're on foot? Robots don't have to be anthropomorphic, and usually aren't.

having a human run through a crowded urban or jungle area, making decisions about which direction to go, is not the same as a motorcycle clipping along the freeway

Re:I love robots (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#34294116)

Yes, in many situations:

  • On sand/loose gravel
  • Up a rocky, uneven hill
  • Through a cavern through which the drone will not fit
  • Over basically any surface unstable, small, or unnavigable enough that a vehicle of any sort wouldn't be able to keep up with me

Until we have drones that can match or exceed what a human can do, we will have the advantage in places that they cannot go. Incidentally, some of those places (like the Tora Bora caves) are where a lot of forces hostile to us like to hang out.

Either way, a bot that can keep up with a human on anything other than relatively flat land is probably a decade or so away at least IMO.

Re:I love robots (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 3 years ago | (#34280446)

> computers are [...] pretty satisfactory.

Alright, that's it. Turn in your geek card and get out of here.

Re:I love robots (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34281238)

You don't think today's computers are satisfactory? What do you need your computer do do that it won't do now? Most likely the GP's a geezer who's been around since the IBM PC, with no hard drive, a 360k floppy, 64k of RAM, and a 5mHz processor that cost $5,000 was the norm.

Hell, my recently stolen netbook [slashdot.org] was more powerful than any desktop on the market just ten or so years ago. A gigabyte of RAM was unheard of back then.

Re:I love robots (1)

Taxman415a (863020) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283014)

You don't think today's computers are satisfactory? What do you need your computer do do that it won't do now? Most likely the GP's a geezer who's been around since the IBM PC, with no hard drive, a 360k floppy, 64k of RAM, and a 5mHz processor that cost $5,000 was the norm.

Yeah, they seem great compared to what they used to be able to do, but they are still far from reaching their capabilities. Voice recognition is still pretty poor and computer generated speech for general input is only moderately decent. Try getting it to speak a math text for example; that can only be done if the input text is in the perfect format currently. Computer vision is very poor, AI is nowhere near where people thought it would be at this point, and machine translation is moderate to poor, though useful in limited contexts. The amount of processing power that can be carried around on a battery charge that can last more than a day is also extremely limited compared to the uses that it could have for the above tasks and more.

I'm not saying computers aren't useful now, but they are far from where they could be. It just turns out many of these problems that would make them truly transformational are much harder than it was once thought they were.

Re:I love robots (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285044)

AI is nowhere near where people thought it would be at this point

I don't think it ever will.

The amount of processing power that can be carried around on a battery charge that can last more than a day is also extremely limited compared to the uses that it could have for the above tasks and more.

My netbook (which was just stolen) was far more powerful than the desktop machine I was using ten years ago, and even more powerful than the POS I use at work, but its battery lasts over eight hours.

I look forward to having cheaper, more powerful computers, yes, but for just about anything I can think of I'd personally need a computer for, today's are fine.

Of course, back in 1995 nobody would have guessed that we'd be watching movies on our computers, streaming them to a hidef TV. Which is what excites me about the future.

Having come from the past and seeing all the marvels science and tech have delivered... like my favorite device, the CrystaLens implant [slashdot.org] in my left eye. That beats every other tech I own or have owned hands down. That thing, simple as it is, is miraculous. And the tech is eight years old, the thing's been inside my eyeball for four.

Re:I love robots (1)

Taxman415a (863020) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286096)

If current capabilities are all you need, and want then fine, but that's not what you asked. You asked what else one would want a computer to do that it wouldn't do now, and I gave a bunch of examples. If you don't see how those would impact people's lives, you're not being creative enough. Finally, while 8 hours is 2-4 times better than very old and current crappy laptops could do, the real benefits start to happen when you don't have to be tethered to power every few (or 8) hours. More than a day would start to have big benefits for wearable natural language processing applications, and a week would really open up the options.

Re:I love robots (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 3 years ago | (#34290516)

It was a *joke*. I feel that the idea that things are satisfactory is anathema to the geek mindset, which tends to go something along the lines of "Hey, Cool. How does it work? I wonder if I can make it go to eleven..."

Re:I love robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34280576)

30 years is a long wait for a date

Re:I love robots (1)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 3 years ago | (#34280916)

You gotta think maybe in 30 years the world will be populated with decent AI robots of various types. [...] This feeling of,"Anything is possible in the future" brings a warm feeling into my heart.

Everything except a decent goddamned flying car.

Congratulations... (4, Interesting)

Willbur (196916) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278790)

Congrats to the teams that did well. I know a bunch of Australian teams that looked into entering and decided not to because:

    a) It was an engineering challenge more than a research challenge,
    b) It was closer to that ethical line of making killer robots than, say, the DARPA Grand Challenge autonomous vehicle competition,
    c) There was an extremely compressed timeline to actually make anything, and
    d) The prize is mostly prestige. i.e. It wouldn't come anywhere near the development costs even for the teams that won.

So, it was a less than perfect competition. But that also means that the teams that did well in it did well under difficult conditions, so good for them. :)

Re:Congratulations... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279064)

d) The prize is mostly prestige. i.e. It wouldn't come anywhere near the development costs even for the teams that won.

Engineers and scientists are never in it for the money: they just want to prove that they can do something better than anyone else. This trait in human beings led to constant innovation: quicker methods of starting fires, better weapons to kill cuddly mammoths, etc. The highest art and skill of engineers and scientists is convincing others to pay for their cockamamie contraptions. This was true from Archimedes to Leonardo da Vinci: "Hey, you! Government, despot, whatever! Pay for my research, and I will help you vanquish your enemies!"

Today the Sugar-Daddy is called DARPA.

Re:Congratulations... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34279348)

its just too bad about those enemies.

Re:Congratulations... (1)

sempir (1916194) | more than 3 years ago | (#34280308)

Y'know....all this robot shit worries me.....one day someone is going to connect a brain to one and whooooosh.....we're fucked! Now a really well made blow up doll...........! :~)

Re:Congratulations... (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34280458)

The head of my research group was also looking to compete, but part c in your list is what prevented him. He decided to wait it out, see how the competition went, and perhaps enter the next time the hold it. I have a feeling many universities felt the same way, as you didn't see a lot of the big guns participate in this one (which might be more due to part d, but who knows).

Go Quakers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34278844)

Sweet!

Kinect vs. $5k Hokuyo UTM-30LX Laser RangeFinder (4, Interesting)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278908)

They used the Hokuyo UTM-30LX Laser RangeFinder (LIDAR) which has a MSRP of $5,600 and a 30m range (270 degree FOV). I wonder if the Kinect would be a low-cost/low-resolution alternative in some environments (e.g., urban)? And at $150 each, one could use three or four Kinects for a wide field of view.

Re:Kinect vs. $5k Hokuyo UTM-30LX Laser RangeFinde (2, Interesting)

getto man d (619850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279236)

Interesting idea, however, using a lower resolution sensor leads to a more complicated model. SLAM and other mapping techniques are generally probabilistic based. It depends whether or not they have the processing power and energy to find a viable solution using the Kinect or other visual senors.

There is a large subset of the SLAM community devoted to this, Visual-SLAM; check it out.

Re:Kinect vs. $5k Hokuyo UTM-30LX Laser RangeFinde (2, Interesting)

chardson (1865338) | more than 3 years ago | (#34280054)

Odds that the Kinect will work outdoors should be quite low, as it relies on an array-based infrared system. Alternatively, a laser range finder uses a highly focused pulse of light at (nearly) a single point, which performs better in natural sunlight. It seems quite likely that Kinect will be popular in the near future for indoor robotics and robotics education, but indoor/outdoor robustness is strongly desired these days and scanning LIDARs won't disappear until robust Flash LADAR becomes common

Re:Kinect vs. $5k Hokuyo UTM-30LX Laser RangeFinde (2, Interesting)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34280420)

Laser range finders are a must for accurate mapping and localization. I work with the UTM and other LIDARS on my robots, and the maps the produce are extremely accurate. Vision based navigation is possible, but it takes a lot of computation, and a lot of work to account for the uncertainty introduced. I'd say if you have the money, use both. Kinect might work well in a crunch, but as of now vision based SLAM is still in its infancy.

Misread title (3, Funny)

EricX2 (670266) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278910)

I read the title as US Robotics and thought it had to do with the modem company winning a lawsuit in Australia. I guess I've been reading slashdot too much lately that I always assume somebody is being sued in the stories.

mapping and neutralizing simulated bombs... (0, Offtopic)

C0quette (1466487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278944)

"US teams dominated the MAGIC 2010 autonomous robotics competition, mapping and neutralizing simulated bombs at the 250,000 sq. meter" Hhmmmm... Am I the only one who remember the days when US stood for solidly made goods? I havent bought anything worth more than $100 labeled "Made in USA" in four years. All the taxpayers money seem to be destined to blow things up. It is no wonder China will surpass the US in less than 10 years. Hhhhmmmm. "mapping and neutralizing simulated bombs at the 250,000 sq. meter". How useful is that?! What Arizona didn't want the competition?!

Re:mapping and neutralizing simulated bombs... (2, Informative)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279034)

All the taxpayers money seem to be destined to blow things up.

Please see this chart [wikipedia.org] which shows Defense as 23% of taxpayer's money.

Re:mapping and neutralizing simulated bombs... (1)

C0quette (1466487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34279112)

Thanks. The US expenditures is a joke. What a waste.

Compare http://www.statemaster.com/graph/mil_cos_of_the_mil_percap-military-cost-per-capita [statemaster.com]

with

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/mil_exp_dol_fig_percap-expenditures-dollar-figure-per-capita [nationmaster.com]

where you can the at the Nationmaster list is topped by Israel, understandably. That would rank them as the 25th state in expendures in the US.

Norway, the 3rd on the list spends $883 per person and year. That would give them rank 43rd in the US.

The formerly glorious United Kingdom would be second last among the US states...

Why not make the economy stronger? China will win this race within a one hundred year, but not because of a stronger army...

how to neutralize a neutral bomb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34279000)

swallowing it?
cutting the red wire?
robotic telepathy?
media intervention?

US Robots win big down under (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34280228)

Susan Calvin reported extremely pleased

Michigan team? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34280416)

If anyone from the Michigan team is here, I have a question, trivial class. Are those plastic lawn mower wheels on the robots? They look just like the drive wheels on my self propelled walk behind mower.

Re:Michigan team? (1)

edwinolson (116413) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287912)

Yep, exactly. We had the least expensive robots, in part due to this sort of adaptation of existing parts. You can imagine the call to the Sears repair center, though, when we ordered 80 replacement wheels!

Ed
Team Michigan

SO THAT'S WHAT WAS GOING ON! (3, Funny)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#34280864)

So that's what was fucking going on!

You dick heads, I was doing exams, and all I could hear were planes and all sorts of shit happening in the background.

Nice and considerate!

For those not students of Adelaide University or UniSA, we do exams in the Showgrounds pavilions. No wonder we weren't allowed in the Wayville pavilion which is what we usually use. I did notice and odd amount of military personnel around the exams, I just assumed they were taking cheating seriously... real seriously.

Re:SO THAT'S WHAT WAS GOING ON! (1)

spacemort (1794762) | more than 3 years ago | (#34288996)

YOUR university has exams at a showgrounds and YOUR complaining about the government? I have never heard of exams being taken anywhere other than in classrooms, maybe you should talk to the student counsel at your uni and file a complaint about off-campus exams.

Re:SO THAT'S WHAT WAS GOING ON! (1)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#34289182)

LOL It's actually a really good way. The campus is in the middle of the city, this makes it easier to get to. Plus they are able to do heaps of different exams at one time. They get like a couple of thousand people in that meat works.

The first time, it really hits you and feels surreal. But you get used to it, and it works well after that. Heaps of parking, heaps of space, _usually_ quiet. They're also able to hold them for 3 hours (which is the average exam length for me), where as few classes go for 3 hours, so you'd have trouble with overlapping classes wanting to do exams.

Over summer they hold the summer school exams in Elder Hall, but that's only because there's only a small fraction of the students doing it.

Also, though it was a little annoying, it wasn't really that big a deal, I only heard a few loud weird noises, and was focused (read: stressed) enough to block it out and get on with what I had to do.

They don't 'think' for themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34282060)

They don't think for themselves and they aren't clever or smart. Maybe the person who programmed them is.

us = militarism = robots funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34283506)

I attended Penn and worked in their robotics lab (GRASP). They get tons of military research dollars, maybe more than any other university. Is it any doubt the country with the most military spending has the best robots?

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