Recently the TED conference brought researchers out of the lab to show off their latest gadgets - if you can use the word “gadget” to describe a hypersonic Mach 20 glider and autonomous and collaborative flying robots
It was a good lineup; the TED audience barely had time to put its socks back on before they were knocked off yet again. Better yet, probably to the delight of the investors in the audience, many of the projects are in the process of being commercialized.
Here’s a glimpse what the future may hold :
Flying robots :
Vijay Kumar and other researchers at the University of Pennsylvania build robots - called “Quadrotors” - that can fly incredibly quickly and intelligently.
While sensing their surroundings and movement, the robots can avoid obstacles, right themselves and carry and deposit things. Kumar showed a robot jumping through a flying hoop and drawing a 3-D map by navigating a physical space.
Even better, the robots can work together with decentralized control. They can take actions based on local information while being agnostic to who their neighbors are. Kumar said potential applications for the robots include first response work and construction.
Check out the video below, made for TED of the Quadrotors playing music :
Mach 20 flight :
DARPA has conducted two tests of hypersonic vehicles, the fastest maneuvering aircraft ever built.
Towed into space by rockets, both gliders crashed in the Pacific Ocean, but along the way they generated a great deal of data and more information than ever before about how to fly so fast, said DARPA Director Regina Dugan.
Mach 20 speed would mean traveling from New York to Long Beach, Calif. (where TED is held), in 11 minutes and 20 seconds, Dugan said. The flight would be quick, but it would also be incredibly hot.
Dugan urged the TED audience to “be nice to nerds” (probably not that tall an order, given this constituency) and told them to ask themselves, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” (She sounded a lot like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who has made “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” a sort of mantra.)
In addition to Mach 20 flight videos, Dugan demonstrated a remote-controlled mechanical flying hummingbird, and showed pictures and videos of a nano-adhesive modeled on geckos, metals that are lighter than Styrofoam and a prosthetic hand controlled by a human mind. She might have the best bag of tricks in the business.
Enjoy the video!
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