The Pirate Bay aims for the clouds…literally

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There is no shortage of government and entertainment-related agencies chomping at the bit to shut down the Pirate Bay for good. While the group has not suffered a permanent service ending raid like [Kim Dotcom] and the Megaupload crew, they are always thinking up novel ways to ensure that the site can endure whatever law enforcement throws at them.

In a recent blog post, representatives from the group unveiled plans to put their front line servers in the clouds, courtesy of custom-made autonomous drones called “Low Orbit Server Stations.” The project is in its infancy, but the general idea is to mount small computers like the Raspberry Pi on GPS-controlled drones kept aloft 24×7 (presumably) using solar energy. These drones would communicate with clients on the ground via radio transmitters which they state can provide a “100Mbps node up to 50km away”.

Calling the claims grandiose would be an understatement, but then again the Pirate Bay has proven to be a difficult organization to quash in any substantial way, so only time will tell.

[via The Daily What - Thanks, roboman2444]

[Vijay Kumar's] TED talk on the state of quadcopter research

[Vijay Kumar] is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the GRASP lab where research centering around autonomous quadcopters is being met with great success. If you were intrigued by the video demonstrations seen over the last few years, you won’t want to miss the TED talk [Dr. Kumar] recently gave on the program’s research. We touched on this the other week when we featured a swarm of the robots in a music video, but there’s a lot more to be learned about what this type of swarm coordination means moving forward.

We’re always wondering where this technology will go since all of the experiments we’ve seen depend on an array of high-speed cameras to give positional feedback to each bot in the swarm. The image above is a screenshot taken about twelve minutes into the TED talk video (embedded after the break). Here [Dr. Kumar] addresses the issue of moving beyond those cameras. The quadcopter shown on the projection screen is one possible solution. It carries a Kinect depth camera and laser rangefinder. This is a mapping robot that is designed to enter an unknown structure and create a 3D model of the environment.

The benefits of this information are obvious, but this raises one other possibility in our minds. Since the robots are designed to function as an autonomous swarm, could they all be outfitted with cameras, and make up the positional-feedback grid for one another? Let us know what you think about it in the comments section.

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Quadrotor squadron plays the [James Bond] theme song in preparation for world domination

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If you weren’t already a big fan of quadrotors by this point, we’re pretty sure the video below will get you on the bandwagon in no time flat.

The video was debuted this past week at the TED2012 conference, giving [Daniel Mellinger, Alex Kushleyev, and Vijay Kumar] from the University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab, a chance to show off their amazing robotics work. The team used a set of autonomous quadrotors to play the [James Bond] theme, complete with keyboard, drums, cymbals, guitar, and maracas.

The coordination of the robots undoubtedly took an incredible amount of time to orchestrate, but after watching the video we think it is well worth the effort. Now of course you can’t simply input a piece of sheet music into the quadrotor control system and expect them to play it, but we imagine that time will arrive before you know it!

Continue reading to see the [James Bond] theme song in full, and be sure to swing by the U Penn site to read more about the project.

Thanks to everyone who sent this one in!

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Autonomous metal detector lets you sit back, get rich

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As a kid, metal detectors seemed like great fun. Every commercial I saw beckoned with tales of buried treasure “right in my own back yard” – a bounty hard for any kid to pass up. In reality, the process was both time consuming and tedious, with little reward to be had. [Gareth] liked the idea of scouring the Earth with a metal detector, but he liked sitting and relaxing even more. He decided he could easily partake in both activities if he built himself an autonomous metal detecting robot.

He stripped down a hand held metal detector, and installed the important bits on to the front of an R/C chassis. An Arduino controls the entire rig via a motor shield, allowing it to drive and steer the vehicle while simultaneously sweeping the metal detector over the ground. He fitted the top of the rover with a camera for remotely watching the action from the comfort of his patio, along with a laser which lets him pinpoint the location of his new found goods.

Continue reading to see a short video of the robot in action, and be sure to check out his site for more build details.

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Robotic farming means more corn for everyone

You know we’re all going to starve, right? If the world’s population keeps growing exponentially and food production grows linearly, we’re eventually going to find out what Soylent Green is made of. This is where [David Dorhout]‘s Prospero robot farmer comes in. [David] has come up with the idea of using small autonomous robots to plant, tend and harvest fields. Right now, he’s working on stage 1: planting seeds.

A swarm of six-legged Prospero robots are dispatched to a field. There, each member of the swarm plants seeds one at a time. The robots keep in contact with each other over a wireless connection to ensure the optimal planting pattern for an entire field.

The Prospero prototype is based on the Parallax Propeller with a Ping ultrasonic sensor used to avoid obstacles. Each hexapod is equipped with a bunch of seeds, a small auger, and a supply of fertilizer for the future corn plant. The next step in the plan is to build a ‘tending’ robot that will monitor and apply nutrients if needed. Check out the Prospero video after the break.

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I have seen the future, and it has Swarmanoids

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Imagine that you want a book that is located on a shelf several rooms over, but you do not want to get out of your chair. Short of developing telekenesis on the spot, there’s little you can do other than get up and fetch the book yourself – that is, unless you have an army of Swarmanoids to do your bidding.

This robotic swarm is the pet project of [Dr. Marco Dorigo] from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, and is impressive to say the least . As the Mission: Impossible-esque video plays out, you see several different robots working in concert, flying, climbing, and driving around to fetch a book from a shelf. The robots have no information regarding their surroundings, forcing them to learn and “speak” to one another in order to reach their goal once the target has been located.

It really is amazing to watch these robots work together, but don’t take our word for it. Check out the Swarmanoids in action below.

[via Geek.com]

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Autonomous tank will track you down, cover you in welts

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[Dan] wrote in to share a project he recently finished up, an autonomous Airsoft tank. The toy tank makes use of a wide array of technologies to get the job done, and will stop at nothing to hunt you down (provided you are wearing an IR beacon).

An Arduino board is used to control the tank’s motors, while a Lego NXT module handles most of the other operations. The tank makes its way around using an ultrasonic sensor, which ensures it doesn’t get stuck on any errant furniture or hung up in a corner. While driving around autonomously is well and good, [Dan] upped the ante a bit by making the Airsoft turret completely autonomous as well.

He fitted a Wiimote IR sensor to the tank, successfully interfacing it with the NXT module after a bit of trial and error. Now that things are up and running, he can place his IR beacon anywhere in the room, and the tank will drive around scanning its surroundings until the target is found. Once the tank locks on, a flurry of Airsoft pellets take down whatever stands in its way.

We think that [Dan] did a fantastic job here, but see for yourself in the videos embedded after the break.

[via HackedGadgets]

[Read more...]

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