Highway work crews in the US state of Florida may be among the first people in the world to see real benefits from the development of driverless road vehicles.
Development work by Royal Truck & Equipment has led the company to automate its truck-mounted attenuator vehicles, which are literally a mobile crash barriers designed to protect road crews from traffic. While these vehicles usually have a driver the new electro-mechanical system developed by the company integrates with a suite of sensors that allow the truck to follow a lead vehicle, without having to put a human driver in the line of danger.
“Any time a driver can be removed from these vehicles in a very dangerous situation, and if the vehicle’s struck, there’s nobody inside of it to receive the damage or the injuries…that’s measuring success,” said Rob Roy president of Royal Truck and Equipment.
The company has created its prototypes by adapting existing technology. The system works by having the lead vehicle, which has a human driver, leave digital crumbs for the automated vehicle to follow. These crumbs act as waypoints, making the automated vehicle mimic the exact speed and path followed by the leader. The module that provides all the navigation data can easily be swapped form one lead vehicle or another.
Two vehicles are scheduled to hit the road with work crews before the end of the year, as part of a government-backed demonstration programme.
In just two years, a small technology start-up known as Wonder Workshop attracted some $14.6 million in venture-capital funding and generated tens of thousands of sales. It’s mission: creating robots that teach children to code.
With its robots Dot and Dash, Wonder Workshop is trying to get children into computer programming by making it easy and fun to learn. Its robots are sold together for $229.99, while Dash costs $169.99.
Back in 2013, Wonder Workshop, which was then known as Play-i, received some $1.5 million worth of pre-orders in just a month for its pair of programmable robots. The company’s founder and CEO, Vikas Gupta, wanted to create something accessible to children as young as five, as most robotics kits are designed for older children.
To keep costs down, the two robots Dash and Dot were designed as spherical robots, instead of humanoids. The makers wanted them to be affordable to a larger group of people and to give children flexibility as to how they wanted to use them. Children can transform the kit into anything they imagine it to be, whether a monster, an animal, or a ghost. While the robot has wheels, it doesn’t resemble a truck or a car.
Wonder Workshop has also created apps to make it easy for children to control the robots. The four free apps used to control Dot and Dash for Android and iOS devices are Go, Path, Xylo and Blockly. They all connect to the robots using Bluetooth.
One of the easiest apps to use is Go, which lets children control lights, sounds and movement. They can also record an audio. Path, on the other hand, allows kids to draw a path on the screen than can then be mimicked by Dash in reality.
The more advanced app, Blockly, teaches kids how to code so they can make Dash drive, move his head, light up in different patterns, make sounds and respond to obstacles, movement and nearby voices or clapping.
Gupta’s aim is to take kids away from simply coding on screen to seeing the results of their coding come to life.
This proposal suggests a solution that improves the physiological gait development of children without being at a rehabilitation centre (i.e. at school and home).
Children affected by neurological conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Spina Bifida and head trauma often develop significant disabilities, including impaired motor control. In many cases, walking becomes difficult and eventually demands the use of crutches or wheelchairs. As a result, these children do not acquire locomotion skills, and consequently lose their independence.
It is well understood that walking, a fundamental human characteristic, ensures the best locomotion training. In children with neurological and neuromuscular diseases, independent walking is a significant rehabilitation method that must be pursued in a specific temporal window due to the plasticity of the central nervous system. This means children with neurological conditions have a small window of time to acquire locomotion skills through assisted walking rehearsals. Our goal is to develop a set of technologies that lead to an exoskeleton that quickly promotes walking skills among children.
One word summarizes what we do: passion. Our mission is to develop low cost consumer bionic products to improve the quality of life for people around the world. The team has continually innovated low cost exoskeleton systems, which eventually allowed a paraplegic student to walk the podium for his graduation.
Our research will lead to innovative computer-controlled rehabilitative exoskeletons to promote locomotion among children. Our team (University of California at Berkeley and SuitX) envision that a paediatric exoskeleton resulting from this research work should have the following novel characteristics:
- Modularity in hardware
- Control Software that promotes the recovery of the wearer’s gait
- Self-stabilizing technology to ensure safety