The European Space Agency (ESA) wants you to play video games with flying drones so it can develop better space robots. A free app that runs on the iPhone or iPad lets owners of Parrot AR.Drone quadricopters navigate their remote-controlled robots to perform dockings on a simulation of the International Space Station. Using crowdsourcing, the ESA figures it will arrive faster at improved methods for robotic docking strategies.
The new AstroDrone app is part of a larger ESA project run by its Advanced Concepts Team. This Artificial Intelligence project aims at collecting data via crowdsourcing about how robots navigate their environments. In particular, it's aimed at improving robots' abilities to autonomously estimate distances to other objects, a skillset clearly needed in the complex task of docking in space.
Crowdsourcing is a creative method for research (and people love competitive "games") - but how will capturing data from individuals docking tell HOW they accomplished the feat? Did they use motion induced parallax, the growing size of the target, distortions in the shape as the viewing angle changed, or something else to achieve accuracy?
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.