AQUA man: The rise of the six-limbed robot turtle
Noreen Fagan | April 2, 2014
It has six rotating flippers and can walk along a shoreline, swim in open water or dive deep into the dark ocean. It is not a toy or a character in a computer game, but an amphibious autonomous robot named AQUA.
“It’s a six legged robotic turtle,” says Michael Jenkin, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at York University, whose work focuses on developing algorithms to enable AQUA to build and reason its position and orientation in a 3-D environment.
AQUA is part of a research project on autonomous vehicles being developed by researchers at York and McGill universities, to explore underwater environments and gather data with minimum disturbance to aquatic life. AQUA is primarily a research platform allowing scientists to ask fundamental and applied questions to autonomous systems.
“The fundamental question that we are trying to ask is, how do you build machine that can operate autonomously under complex environmental conditions,” says Jenkin. “We are trying to answer questions that will allow us to build machines that will operate anywhere.”
AQUA is programmed to answer questions such as “Where am I?” and, “What is my orientation?” Jenkin says GPS systems help people navigate the Earth’s surface, but in more complex environments people have difficulty in orienting themselves.
“It is not very easy for scuba divers and pilots to know which way is up, because the internal systems that normally generate that information don’t work as well because of the complexities of the environment.”
Advanced robotic systems have begun to emerge as a key component in technology–based industries. As Jenkin points out there are cars that automatically stop when sensing danger and airbags that are triggered before impact.
Jenkin sees AQUA as a possible answer to solving problems that would normally require extreme measures. Autonomous robots have the potential to help solve problems like monitoring oil pipelines. This would help streamline the current methods that require a multitude of components including using airplanes to take radar images.
AQUA is one of four amphibious autonomous robots on the planet. Although AQUA a research platform, versions of the robot have been used commercially. Jenkin’s last project involved developing a robot used to assist police in the investigation of crime scenes.
There is no timeline for how long AQUA can be used as a research platform. Robotic technology is rapidly advancing and it is only through continued research that scientists like Jenkin can remain on the cutting edge of robotics.
Michael Jenkin will be speaking next week at the What Matters Now event on April 9. This is a free public event scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection gallery.
From manuscript to search ...
Guest blog by Chris Nighman | October 23, 2014Long before the advent of the Internet, and well before Gutenberg invented moveable type, medieval intellectuals devised information technologies to take advantage of a growing mass of Big Data repositories known as “manuscripts.” read more »
If you’re happy ...
Cathy Majtenyi | October 22, 2014Brock University recently launched a series of monthly podcasts covering a wide range of themes. As part of our own package of “Belief” related blog posts, Research Matters is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Brock Associate Professor of Psychology, Michael Busseri. Busseri will join two other colleagues to explore this topic in Brock’s January 2015 podcast, “What gives us a sense of wellbeing?” read more »
Lucid dreaming depends on ...
Trent University Staff | October 21, 2014New research by Trent University Oshawa Anthropology professor Roger Lohmann and graduate student Shayne Dahl indicates that cultural learning shapes the kind of awareness and control people can experience while dreaming. “Scouring the ethnographic record on dreaming for hints of lucidity under Professor Lohmann’s guidance, I found something surprising: that lucid dreaming is widely thought to have serious consequences,” said Dahl, who completed his M.A. thesis, “Knowing Means Connecting with the Source of Life: Knowledge and Ethics among Blackfoot Traditionalists” at Trent in 2012. (He is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto.) “As one of my Blackfoot informants put it, ‘You could die in your dream.’” Lohmann and Dahl’s findings were published in the 2014 collection, Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep. Lucid dreaming – waking consciousness arising during a dream – has been a hot topic of scientific research in recent years. According to Lohmann and Dahl, the common assumption that dreams are products of isolated imaginations has distorted our understanding of lucidity’s variation in form, function, and real-world outcomes. Pop culture portrayals in films such as Avatar and Inception present fantasies where lucid dreaming enables marvelous real-world powers. Many traditional and religious cultural worldviews take the relationship between waking and dream worlds as reality rather than fantasy. Lohmann’s fieldwork in Papua New Guinea among the Asabano people explored how they used dreaming as evidence for and contact with supernatural beings. “Asabano converts often told me that seeing dreams of Jesus or Heaven convinced them that what the missionary told them was true,” said Lohmann. “It struck me that they had to believe their dreams were more than figments of their own imaginations to reach that conclusion, and that I, for example, would not be convinced by the same experience because of my different cultural background.” Similarly, Dahl’s fieldwork in Alberta included encounters with Aboriginal medicine men who practiced lucid dreaming. “Shayne’s field experiences and his search of ethnographic literature brought home to us that lucid dreaming has profound potential for people who think it’s more than just a fantasy. We found that descriptions of lucid dreams are radically different in form, function, and outcome depending on the cultural assumptions of the dreamer,” said Lohmann. Their research revealed evidence that in some cultures, lucid dreaming is unknown, while in others it is a commonly taught skill. In some, lucidity is tacit rather than acknowledged, but people nevertheless believe that they actively undertake goals in their dreams. Lohmann and Dahl found that this implicitly lucid “volitional dreaming” commonly appears in ethnographic accounts of dreaming. In cultures where “generative” theory holds sway, dreaming of something is understood to cause it to happen in the waking world. This leads people to experience lucid dreams as opportunities to create or do magic. By contrast, people who believe dreams are what one sees during “soul travel” use lucid dreams as an opportunity to spiritually visit real places. “Even when we consciously disbelieve our dreams,” Dahl said, “They still affect us at a deeper, emotional level that we can’t easily control with reason.” “All of this shows that cultural dream theories are multiple, that people invoke them in complex ways, and that they are at the very core of what lucid dreaming is and what it makes possible,” said Lohmann. This story was originally published by Trent University on, July 15, 2014. Is has been edited for style, brevity and clarity and appears here with permission.
In money we trust
U of T Staff (With introduction by Patchen Barss) | October 20, 2014A few years ago, late, late at night, I was tooling around the streets of Ottawa in the back seat of a Jeep being driven by former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge. American economist and Nobel Laureate George Akerlof was riding shotgun. read more »