Monday, February 28, 2005

From this link at, and the article originally from the Guardian Unlimited, they talk about DARPA's plan to introduce legged payload carriers to the US military. Specifically, a 4-legged robot named BigDog that's quite agile for most legged robots today.

I've heard this before, but I can't remember where. I believe attended a presentation on this concept. Basically this all about logistics. Soldiers are carrying too much crap on the field, and all the new gadgets that are coming out are adding more weight than they can physically carry.

Enter an autonomous cargo carrier. This allows you to offset the duty of carrying crap to a machine and leaves the soldier free to move about, scout, kill things, whatever. The robot carrier is also expendable whereas the soldier is usually more valuable.

Given that one of the weakest points in today's US military is logistics transporation, as seen by roadside attacks in Iraq, it would be a boon if they could offset this job to expendable autonomous cargo vehicles. The military is trying to achieve this from many different angles, and from what I remember from DARPA, there goal is to have something like 30%-40% of all military vehicles unmanned by 2015.

Jacob Everist

Robotics Research

Lab Work and Robotics Wiki

It's been a while since my last diary entry, but I've been
working hard on my lab projects. Unfortunately I can't talk
much about it until we get our NASA contract signed.

In other news, I've launched a robotics wiki to try and make a
collaborative resource for robotics. It's got a lot of
stuff in it already for being such a new wiki. I've also
decided to make the content available under a Creative Commons
license, so that it's essentially a free resource.

Most of my time is spent on IRC chatting about robots and
helping people with their projects. You can find me on in #robotics. If you don't know how to use
IRC, read here

The wiki URL is:

I'm also very interested in compiling a robot zoo, or an exhaustive list of robots past and present. My vision for it is to become a kind historical record of the robot population. I have to acknowledge that this is a highly difficult task, but I think it can be accomplished with a collaborative effort.

Jacob Everist

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hard Problems in Robotics

There are so many things that need to be solved in robotics, that it's so difficult to choose just one to solve. I think that's a problem I have with focus. Even a seemingly simple problem opens up a whole can of worms of unsolved issues.

Suppose you consider the problem of a robot exploring some unknown planetary terrain. Let's assume that all the high-level directives and navigation commands come from our human masters off-site or perhaps off-planet. Our focus should be moving the robot around safely, keeping it stable, preventing damage, and conserving power. Our problem is this, how do we make this robot adapt to its environment?

First you have to define what you mean by environments. In this case, we mean variations in terrain such as rockiness, surface traction, soil looseness or hardness, inclines, non-uniformities in profile, pits or obstacles, and perhaps dynamic changes such as wind, water, or creatures.

What do we mean by adapt? Given a task and the current environment, we want the robot to tailor its actions over time to maximize performance. But what are we tuning? What performance are we maximizing? How is the robot measuring its own performance? These are all big issues that need to be solved, and their solutions may only apply in limited situations and may be very difficult to generalize.