Earth Rovers Explore Our Own Planet

While Mars is currently under close scrutiny by NASA and other space agencies, there is still a lot of exploring to do here on Earth. But if you would like to explore a corner of our own planet in the same way NASA that explores Mars, it’s possible to send your own rover to a place and have it send back pictures and data for you, rather than go there yourself. This is what [Norbert Heinz]’s Earth Explorer robots do, and anyone can drive any of the robots to explore whatever locations they happen to be in.

A major goal of the Earth Explorer robot is to be easy to ship. This is a smaller version of the same problem the Mars rovers have: how to get the most into a robot while having as little mass as possible. The weight is kept to under 500g, and the length, width, and height to no more than 90cm combined. This is easy to do with some toy cars modified to carry a Raspberry Pi, a camera, and some radios and sensors. After that, the robots only need an interesting place to go and an Internet connection to communicate with Mission Control.

[Norbert] is currently looking for volunteers to host some of these robots, so if you’re interested head on over to the project page and get started. If you’d just like to drive the robots, though, you can also get your rover fix there as well. It’s an interesting project that will both get people interested in exploring Earth and in robotics all at the same time. And, if you’d like to take the rover concept beyond simple exploration, there are other machines that can take care of the same planet they explore.

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Measure earth’s rotation with PlayStation Move

This somewhat odd-looking apparatus is being used to measure earth’s rotation. At the heart of the system is a PlayStation Move controller, used because of its dual-axis gyroscope which has the highest dynamic range compared to other available products like the Wii Motion Plus. It rests on a column perched atop a record player that was chosen because of its precision rotation rate. The two rings that flank the controller make up a Helmholtz coil which is used to cancel out the earth’s magnetic field which was found to be interfering with measurements taken by the Move controller. By recording data over time the experimenter can prove that the earth is indeed rotating, as well as ascertain longitude data and find true north. Check out the data-packed video after the break.

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Gaming with real-world data


We were pretty excited by the prospect of location-aware software and its ability to pull map data into its functions, but what do you get when build software on top of a map-based service? Well, one possibility is 2D gaming on real maps.

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