" It's the same land, the same sky, but perceptions differ
it's the same road, the same turn, but journeys differ. "

Saturday, 11 April 2015

DARPA Robotics Challenge all set for finale in June

This summer, 25 robots from around the world will go head to head in a competition to test how machines could one day provide assistance after natural or man-made disasters.
In October 2012, United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a prize competition with the aim to develop semi-autonomous ground robots that can do "complex tasks in dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments." The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) began in October 2012, is to run for about 33 months with three competitions, a Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) that took place in June 2013 and two live hardware challenges, the DRC Trials in December 2013, and the DRC Finals in June 2015.
The event is being hosted in Pomona, California. As part of the event, the bots will attempt tasks such as walking about 30 feet (10 meters), activating an emergency shut-off switch and getting up from a lying position. The winning three teams will take home a combined $3.5 million in cash prizes, DARPA officials said.
The DARPA Robotics Challenge, is a competition to build human-controlled robots that may be used to perform challenging tasks that are dangerous for humans. "We are trying to make robots and human beings work together. Robots are very good at working in dangerous environments, while humans are very good at making judgment calls “Gill Pratt, program manager for the contest, said in a news conference.
The finals will require the robots to be untethered, which means the machines will need to be able to keep their balance or recover from a fall, adding a new level of difficulty. The robots must also have a battery or other on board power source.
"Usually, communications get very poor during disasters," both because the infrastructure becomes degraded and because emergency responders are all trying to use it at the same time, Pratt said. To mimic this scenario, the competition's organizers will intentionally degrade the communications links between the robots and their human controllers, requiring that the bots be semi-autonomous, or capable of acting partially on their own.
The finalists are working with a diverse array of robot designs, in terms of both hardware and software, such as Robo Simian, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's primate-like robot, while Germany's Momaro robot resembles a torso on four wheels. Seven of the teams are using the upgraded Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics, a Google-owned robotics company based in Waltham, Massachusetts, but each of those will run unique software or other adaptations, Pratt said.
During this year's competition, each robot will have one hour to complete the course. First, the 'bots must drive a vehicle to a simulated disaster zone and walk about 30 feet (10 m) over a field of obstacles and debris. Then, the robots must rotate a circular valve, hook up some wires, cut a hole through a wall, climb up some stairs and exit a building. There will also be a surprise task, for which the teams won't be prepared in advance, Pratt said.
In addition to the robotics challenge, DARPA is hosting a competition for high school students to create a video that address concerns about robotic intelligence and society.

In the times when natural calamities and man-made disasters strike often, DARPA is trying to build on ‘helping hands’ which are high on intelligence and swift in movement. The grand robotics event will focus on the ability to complete such supervised autonomy tasks "despite low fidelity (low bandwidth, high latency, intermittent) communications" in order to test the bots for working under actual calamity situations.

Why India should know about ITER?

Near the west banks of Sabarmati, in the green city of Gandhinagar, a team of 122 scientists and engineers from across the country, are working silently on building the crucial components required to power the world’s largest nuclear reactor, upcoming in Cadarache, a province in southern France.
At a time when Indo-US nuke deal impasse has broken and both the countries look forward to steer their ‘123 agreement’ towards success, and when the world talks of nuclear non-proliferation, India is diligently working on realizing its dream of completion of ITER by 2019.
ITER, an acronym for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject, which is currently building the world's largest experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor. A tokamak is a device using a magnetic field to confine a plasma in the shape of a torus.
The ITER project aims to make the long-awaited transition from experimental studies of plasma physics to full-scale electricity-producing fusion power plants. It is a step towards future production of electricity from fusion energy. The most important aim is to produce at least ten times more thermal energy than the energy required to operate it, which can be converted to electricity in future power producing reactors based on fusion.
ITER's mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power, and prove that it can work without negative impact. The major aim of ITER is to momentarily produce ten times more thermal energy from fusion heating than, is supplied by auxiliary heating which means a Q value of 10. For half a century, scientists have dreamt about accomplishing this feat, but it was only in 2006 when progress was made with the formation of the ITER.

ITER was conceptualized in 1985 following an initiative by President Gorbachov of the erstwhile Soviet Union and President Reagon of the United States. The project is funded and run by seven member entities — the European Union, India, Japan, People's Republic of China, Russia, South Korea and the United States. ITER will be built mostly through in-kind contributions by the partners, in which they manufacture the ITER components assigned to them through their representative Domestic Agencies (DAs), which are delivered to ITER site for final assembly.
The ITER fusion reactor has been designed to produce 500 megawatts of output power while needing 50 megawatts to operate. Thereby the machine aims to demonstrate the principle of producing more energy from the fusion process than, is used to initiate it, something that has not yet been achieved in any fusion reactor. The facility is expected to finish its construction phase in 2019 and will start commissioning the reactor that same year and initiate plasma experiments in 2020 with full deuterium-tritium fusion experiments starting in 2027. If ITER becomes operational, it will become the largest magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment in use, surpassing the Joint European Torus.

India is providing a tenth of the components for the massive nuclear complex unfolding at Cadarache. New Delhi is contributing what would, when completed in 2021, be the world's largest refrigerator. The cryostat acts like a thermos flask but operates at some of the coldest temperatures ever seen in the universe, working at minus 269 degrees Celsius. This is used to keep the special super conducting magnets at the cold temperature at which they need to operate; the entire fusion system would collapse if it can't be kept cold.

India is also expected to contribute about 9,000 cores over the next decade to the project, thus paying for a little under 10% of the total cost.

Ratan K. Sinha, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Mumbai says, “participation of India in the ITER project, with its immense scientific talent and industrial competence, has provided an opportunity to India to master cutting edge technologies.”