Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Nod Is as Good as a Wink to a Robot

I was at the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge this past Saturday. If you're not familiar with the 2005DGC, 23 vehicles started a 133-mile across the desert. Four vehicles finished the course in less than 7.5 hours.

You're not impressed? What if I told you that the vehicles drove themselves. That's right. No human drivers. No remote control. Nothing. Teams provided course coordinates for the vehicles at the Start Line and pressed 'Go.' After that, the bots drove themselves. Completely autonomous. That's a serious "Look ma, no hands!" moment.

The military will first develop autonomous vehicles to transport supplies during war. Why risk the safety of drivers in hostile places like Iraq?

Once that happens, the media options are limitless. Can you imagine the applications for television?

Yes, robotic cameras are already used in the TV industry, but these cameras work via remote control or by tracking a pre-defined signal. Can you imagine a camera in the field that not only moves by itself but calculates the best place to move all on its own?

If you live in SoCal, you often see camera crews and field reporters head into the throes of wildfires during our annual fire season. Now imagine dropping an autonomous camera robot at a safe distance from the flames and let the camera decide for itself what video to capture. Not only will you see better up-close video, TV personnel are better protected.

Don't think crew safety is important when covering wildfires? Just ask Chuck Henry. I think he might have a story to share.

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