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Credit: NASA

Next Generation Rovers Will Be Able to Think For Themselves:

December 9, 2013 Missions 484
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Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

It goes without saying that the Curiosity rover is one of the most sophisticated pieces of technology in human history. While it was in the developmental stages, researchers worked diligently in developing something that could withstand an environment much more harsh than anything experienced here on Earth. Not just within the confines of the Red Planet, but Curiosity also had to survive the year-long-trek through space. Then, it had to remain in perfect working order following what was affectionately dubbed the “seven minutes of terror.” (The time in which JPL couldn’t monitor the rover’s progression through the Martian atmosphere, to its landing spot in Gale Crater) We won’t even get started with the many things that could spontaneously go wrong during this journey (micrometeorite impacts always pose a problem).

 

With that said; it has several issues that still need to be worked through. One of its biggest issues has nothing to do with the rover itself, but with the constrictions caused by the laws of physics. One of them – the universal speed limit – prevents JPL team members from being able to command and maneuver our robots in real time. Instead; they were constantly on a 40 minute loop (it takes 20 minutes for a signal traveling at light speed to make it from Earth to Mars. Meaning, it takes 40 minutes for one single correspondence to make a round trip)

 

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

This becomes all the more problematic the farther a robot ventures from Earth. Take Europa, for example – one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter. It’s believed to contain a subsurface body of liquid water much larger than all of Earth’s cache of water combined. This tidbit of information makes the extraordinary moon one of the most promising candidates to probe in the search of extra terrestrial life forms. But like Mars – the issues with sending commands remain. Only, it would take almost twice as long to communicate with any such robot exploring Europa’s diverse landscape.

 

In order to partially side-step this issue, JPL researchers are hard at work meticulously creating a new piece of technology that would essentially act as a brain for our rovers. Called the TextureCam, the work-in-progress would not only give future generations of rovers the ability to differentiate between sediment and the sky, but it would also allow the rover to determine the scientific value of certain features. Assuming it’s a worthwhile endeavor, the TextureCam will be able to collect and analyze data, before making educated decisions on the next course of action to take. (This would pretty much remove the need for constant communication between Earth-based operators and future rovers)

 

texturecamThe TextureCam will have a series of different instruments – each working in harmony to effectively study its surroundings. The stereo will capture 3D images of the terrain (using a two-lens camera system), whilst a processor does the needed analyzation to determine whether or not an object of interest is a good use of its time and resources. This will like depend on the size, distance and texture of the material – three things Curiosity has a difficult time discerning currently.

 

The new technology could be seen in action as soon as 2020 – when the next Mars’ rover is expected to be launched. Overall; the implications are astounding. Heck – watching the technological progression of our rovers IS astounding. I, for one, look forward to seeing the various ways in which future scientists and engineers can make Curiosity look like a toaster compared to the next generation of rovers. Stay tuned!

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118 Comments

  1. Lucho Gonzalez September 12, 2013 at 10:32 am -

    skynet is that you?

    Reply
  2. Bart A. Hall September 12, 2013 at 10:33 am -

    Number five is alive

    Reply
  3. Kristian Robertson Halldearn September 12, 2013 at 10:34 am -

    More like WALL:E lols… or Johnny 5

    Reply
  4. Pete Stegemeyer September 12, 2013 at 10:37 am -

    Great. Sentient robots getting a foothold on other planets is exactly what I needed to think about before going to bed.

    Reply
  5. Jim Vickers September 12, 2013 at 10:37 am -

    Another skynet perhaps.

    Reply
  6. Sebastian da Rosa September 12, 2013 at 10:40 am -

    we will be able to travel faster than light, through wormholes, but we will do it by machines or vr. Human´s Travels is an old fashion. Nanomachines

    Reply
  7. Javier Suarez September 12, 2013 at 10:48 am -

    Wall-E is that you???

    Reply
  8. Heather Johnson September 12, 2013 at 10:57 am -

    I’m sorry, but the image of Curiosity with googly eyes made me laugh really hard.

    Reply
  9. Ritu Mehta September 12, 2013 at 11:03 am -

    Salute to human brain !

    Reply
  10. Dan Shinn September 12, 2013 at 11:04 am -

    Robot take over

    Reply
  11. Tatiana Fisher September 12, 2013 at 11:30 am -

    Geth.

    Reply
  12. Hélène Pronovost September 12, 2013 at 11:34 am -

    <3

    Reply
  13. Lena Le September 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm -

    That’s scary…robots…take…over ..”one text at the time”…lol

    Reply
  14. Barbra Buys September 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm -

    …I would be WallE

    Reply
  15. Cody C Cody September 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm -

    I’m sorry Dave, i’m afraid i can’t do that.

    Reply
  16. Judith Barr September 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm -

    Ah, methinks, that is called, Murphy’s Law Syndrome. When, anything, or everything goes, SPLAAT!

    Reply
  17. Carlos Palomares Mena September 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm -

    is that possible for a machine to think by itself with no human help at all?………I Don’t think so….

    Reply
  18. Robert Arans September 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm -

    last time we tried this the crew of the Enterprise only just barely saved the earth from the V’ger probe…

    Reply
  19. Stephen Waterstram September 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm -

    They Should have sent a real life Johnny 5!

    Reply
  20. Kinshuk Bhagat September 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm -

    WALL-E on MARS

    Reply
  21. Jiří Fišer September 12, 2013 at 3:06 pm -

    Flying spaghetti monster a little bit :D

    Reply
  22. M Kiech September 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm -

    To error is human!

    Reply
  23. Carson Danneman September 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm -

    Now if we could just get the humans to think for themselves..

    Reply
  24. Luisfernando Aguilar September 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm -

    Cute.

    Reply
  25. Lokotah Sanborn September 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm -
    Reply
  26. Dale Overall September 12, 2013 at 6:38 pm -

    You have more brains than the Con-servatve prime minister of Canada!

    Reply
  27. Josefina Figueroa September 12, 2013 at 8:24 pm -

    parese Robocot

    Reply
  28. Andres Salvatierra September 13, 2013 at 2:35 am -

    amigo

    Reply
  29. Natthayakul Vivarin September 13, 2013 at 5:53 am -

    Curioursity is so cute, but i could feel as if it was really alive ! :D

    Reply
  30. Martin Merdzhanov December 9, 2013 at 6:01 am -

    wall-e

    Reply
  31. Martin Merdzhanov December 9, 2013 at 6:01 am -

    wall-e

    Reply
  32. Nina Kaylor December 9, 2013 at 6:02 am -

    #5 is alive…

    Reply
  33. Nina Kaylor December 9, 2013 at 6:02 am -

    #5 is alive…

    Reply
  34. Pramesc Gunner December 9, 2013 at 6:02 am -

    first thing they gonna say is why me???

    Reply
  35. Pramesc Gunner December 9, 2013 at 6:02 am -

    first thing they gonna say is why me???

    Reply
  36. Irich Candrawinata December 9, 2013 at 6:03 am -

    Waduw Mbak

    Reply
  37. Irich Candrawinata December 9, 2013 at 6:03 am -

    Waduw Mbak

    Reply
  38. The Gods of Atheism December 9, 2013 at 6:04 am -
    Reply
  39. Alan Pring December 9, 2013 at 6:05 am -

    A truly amazing machine, but could it fall prey to that one in a million chance …….

    Reply
  40. Mike Francis December 9, 2013 at 6:06 am -

    “A heart”.

    Reply
  41. Kenneth A. Oxsalida December 9, 2013 at 6:13 am -

    That 40min only applies when mars is in opposition, otherwise the light speed travel would be more around 10min max when we are at closest approach, still a daunting hurdle to overcome that does not allow for real time variences

    Reply
  42. Rony de Moura December 9, 2013 at 6:14 am -

    Poor rover, soon my sun u’ll gonna get one

    Reply
  43. Karen Leutheuser December 9, 2013 at 6:15 am -

    Okay? Right? It will obtain consciousness. Yeah, when it returns (if it returns) would it be interested in a top level government position? It couldn’t any worse than the clown’s running the show now. But wait we need Adam West to explain to all of the incompetent, feeble minded Liberal Americans the “Truth ” Please respond upon return.

    Reply
  44. Steve Boyce December 9, 2013 at 6:15 am -

    Reply
  45. Abubaker Mubarak December 9, 2013 at 6:17 am -

    we are your Brian

    Reply
  46. Babqju Inloving Qwena December 9, 2013 at 6:19 am -

    ьще ещ ыфн рщдщ ьфкы 4 здфтуе акщь ыефк ыгт ьшдлшцфш идфсл рщд

    Reply
  47. André Silva December 9, 2013 at 6:22 am -

    Great. If only we could do that with people…

    Reply
  48. Joshua Cody December 9, 2013 at 6:23 am -

    God I really hope that Mubarak guy isn’t my “Brian”.

    Reply
  49. Carole Barlow December 9, 2013 at 6:27 am -

    It looks Looks johnny five.

    Reply
  50. Robbie Alnasser December 9, 2013 at 6:34 am -

    What if one day you could transfer your brain into a robot then go live on mars that would never happen but it would be pretty cool.

    Reply
    • Timo Brouwer December 9, 2013 at 12:25 pm -

      It’s possible, and the process is within our hands, except for the fact that it’s extremely expensive and time-consuming, as it has to be done neuron by neuron.

      Reply
    • Oliver Arenas December 9, 2013 at 3:25 pm -

      of course ….when discover and apply the “interchange cuantic of information”

      Reply
    • Marina Roncelli December 9, 2013 at 5:13 pm -

      Forbidden Planet!

      Reply
    • Bryant Baker December 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm -

      Futurist have predicted we may have the technology to upload your conscienceness into a computer by the late 2040s, so not only is it possible but you will likely live long enough to do it.

      Reply
    • Pedro Girardi December 9, 2013 at 9:37 pm -

      the brain would oxidize anyway… c’est la vie

      Reply
    • Pedro Girardi December 9, 2013 at 9:37 pm -

      the brain would oxidize anyway… c’est la vie

      Reply
  51. Ralph Morgan Lewis December 9, 2013 at 6:36 am -

    “Number Five is alive!”

    Reply
  52. Luke Robins December 9, 2013 at 6:37 am -

    Waalleee…. Eeeeevah…

    Reply
  53. Godi Inson December 9, 2013 at 6:40 am -

    Martian adventure..always tricky.!
    But things move on.. as it is a mindset of every scientist…and genious minds to conquer everything …iunknown in the universe!

    Reply
  54. Taymaz Dizeli December 9, 2013 at 6:41 am -

    dont worry, one time will be that.

    Reply
  55. Harley Jeremiah Jackson December 9, 2013 at 6:45 am -

    Quantum communication could be used to resolve this kind of problem in the future, and the use of qubits would imply there’s not really a universal speed limit. Cool article

    Reply
  56. Greg Thompson December 9, 2013 at 6:47 am -

    Shame on you FQTQ. If you’re going to make an AI reference, the only obvious choose is Johnny 5.

    Reply
  57. Les Cooper December 9, 2013 at 6:53 am -

    What, no brain! Here in Australia, we have a government with no brain, no heart, and no courage.

    Reply
  58. Brandon Holman December 9, 2013 at 6:57 am -

    Alie Planet is a great documentary on netflix right now

    Reply
  59. Sol Sal December 9, 2013 at 7:04 am -

    No A.I., thanks. We dont want a planet of intelligent robots with no souls.

    Reply
    • Neil Leisenheimer December 9, 2013 at 8:37 am -

      lol I’m still more worried about other humans killing me than robots, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

      Reply
    • Sol Sal December 9, 2013 at 10:34 am -

      I understand your point.It is important though that we get informed. Posts like this are misleading. There is AI, there are bases on the dark side of the moon. Knowledge will help us transcend the cartoonish mentality. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYIk2kfiL0Q

      Reply
  60. Lou Sephyr December 9, 2013 at 7:07 am -

    hope the new rovers can travel faster than 1.2km/355 days

    Reply
  61. Lloyd Cadrain December 9, 2013 at 7:19 am -

    Start of Skynet? Whatchoo tink, Awnald?

    Reply
  62. Kodiac Jack December 9, 2013 at 7:46 am -

    Wouldn’t it be cool if they find organic material…the rovers that is and decided to build an army of cyborgs thay could breath and colonize on mars. This would eventually lead to a planetary war,which would be fun because we could fight cyborgs instead of each other? 0_o

    Reply
  63. Kodiac Jack December 9, 2013 at 7:47 am -

    That*

    Reply
  64. Roberto Germio December 9, 2013 at 7:51 am -

    battery not included…..!!

    Reply
  65. Jonathan Rudd December 9, 2013 at 7:52 am -

    I, for one, welcome our self-aware, Exploro-bot masters.

    Reply
  66. Clayton Foster December 9, 2013 at 8:03 am -

    Puts in perspective how far away our neighbor down the road is….

    Reply
  67. Shashank Ac December 9, 2013 at 8:19 am -

    Next generation robots should build a base on mars for humans to occupy.

    Reply
  68. Neil Leisenheimer December 9, 2013 at 8:35 am -

    Can I have one of these thinking rovers for a pet? I’d name it Rover and teach it tricks.

    Reply
  69. Eddie Lira December 9, 2013 at 8:53 am -

    imagine if when can get “spooky action” to work for us. real time communication anywhere in the universe.

    Reply
  70. Allen Lemacks December 9, 2013 at 9:06 am -

    Space the Final Frontier,Gene Rodenberry coming Back up Through G.O.D.I.N.C.S. resurrecttion Machine.

    Reply
  71. Dylan Grant Hertzberg December 9, 2013 at 9:15 am -

    Breaking News: Rovers Take Over Mars! Name It Robotopia.

    Reply
  72. John Sheff December 9, 2013 at 9:58 am -

    The image with the “If I only had a brain … ” caption is of the older Spirit/opportunity model, not Curiosity.

    Reply
  73. Steven Edward Seaton December 9, 2013 at 10:36 am -

    ⬆️idiot

    Reply
  74. Andy Waddington December 9, 2013 at 11:00 am -

    Reassembly Johnny 5

    Reply
  75. Lennart Toivo Makkonen December 9, 2013 at 11:34 am -

    Wall-E

    Reply
  76. Bill Short December 9, 2013 at 11:35 am -

    Being a Buckminster Fuller fan, I want to see us get off the planet before I pass. I think that the Chinese will re-ignite the race in Space, as they have set real goals to put an outpost on the moon, and later, Mars. Hopefully, that will trigger the same reaction here as Sputnic did.

    Reply
  77. William Wallace December 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm -

    No Disassemble!!!!

    Reply
  78. Robert Fortner December 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm -

    April Dickerson

    Reply
  79. Jeremy Morgan December 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm -

    As long as they’re nuclear. build 3o of’em. Send’em to Mars, Europa and Enceladus. Explore. Send back Data. Self Detonate.

    Reply
  80. David Cahoon December 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm -

    Put them in Congress.

    Reply
  81. Bobby Fenrich December 9, 2013 at 6:05 pm -

    Considering it takes light 8 minutes to reach the Earth from the Sun, that figure is definitely incorrect, or at least not traveling at light speed.. Sorry to be that guy

    Reply
  82. Crystal Espinosa December 9, 2013 at 6:40 pm -

    Admin(s), I love the things you post, keep up the good work!!

    Reply
  83. Johansson Sven December 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm -

    I say as soon as we get a man there, we claim Mars as our own and defend against any others from exploiting it or trying to settle there.

    Reply
  84. Johansson Sven December 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm -

    I say as soon as we get a man there, we claim Mars as our own and defend against any others from exploiting it or trying to settle there.

    Reply
  85. Channing Johnson December 10, 2013 at 1:48 am -

    FOLLOW THE RED BRICK ROAD…. ;)

    Reply
  86. Manas Mittal December 10, 2013 at 4:06 am -

    human body is also a machin thn why to make robots or any huge machine just use it…

    Reply

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