Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Autonomous

The Mind4 drone takes a different approach to tracking athletes from above

Among the swarm of consumer drones to emerge this year, a number have been aimed squarely at action sports devotees. What defines these vehicles is a tracking feature that enables the drone to autonomously follow athletes from above, but these generally require the user to carry a smartphone to communicate their GPS position. Streaming from a built-in camera to a smartphone app, the Mind4 drone instead allows users to select any object to follow onscreen, a feature that could lead to new possibilities in aerial drone photography.  Read More

The K-MAX drops a payload of water, which it autonomously lifted from a pond

You've gotta hand it to Kaman's K-MAX UAS unmanned helicopter ... it's been used to deliver cargo in a combat zone, it's set altitude and payload weight records for airdrops, and it's been part of an autonomous air/ground mission. Now it's teamed up with a quadcopter in an exercise which suggests that the two could be used to fight forest fires, without endangering human pilots.  Read More

The Afkar project may lead to autonomous cars that could drive themselves to owners or ren...

A team of engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA are developing a robotic system for electric cars that can independently find its way around unknown spaces, navigating around obstacles in order to find its goal. It is hoped that it will soon be capable of finding a parking space or charging station and parking there, safely without a single scratch.  Read More

The eXom, with its camera head visible at the left, and one of the visual/ultrasound sensi...

Swiss company senseFly is best known for its fixed-wing industrial drones, such as the eBee and swinglet CAM. Parrot, on the other hand, has made its name with its consumer quadcopters. So, now that Parrot has owned senseFly for a couple of years, what's the result? The new senseFly eXom quadcopter, which uses multiple visual and ultrasonic sensors to avoid obstacles and maintain precise autonomous flight.  Read More

Bizzby has started conducting trials of its Bizzby Sky drone delivery service

It's hard not to get caught up in the romance of delivery drones, especially when start-ups keep producing spiffy promotional videos set in a fantastical land of airborne courier services. But underneath all this hoopla, progress is certainly being made. London-based Bizzby Sky has begun trials of its autonomous drone delivery service, claiming it is capable of shipping small objects at the touch of a smartphone button.  Read More

The SkySense Charging Pad is designed to enable automation of the recharging process

In addition to shotguns, regulations and laser defense systems, limited battery life is an obstacle that drone companies need to contend with in driving widespread adoption. Berlin-based startup SkySense is looking to play a part, developing a landing pad that doubles as a wireless charging station and promises yet another layer of automation.  Read More

OSHbots are designed to not only identify and locate merchandise, but to speak to customer...

In the near future, you might be surprised to visit to the giant hardware store in your town and find yourself greeted by a chatty robot rather than a human sales assistant. A harbinger of this age of robotic shopping is being trialled with two Oshbot robot sales assistants at an Orchard Supply Hardware store in San Jose, California. Built by Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Silicon Valley technology company Fellow Robots using "science fiction prototyping," the OSHbots are designed to not only identify and locate merchandise, but to speak to customers in their own languages.  Read More

Where are these robots planning on going? Just check their projected paths

Imagine if you were trying to develop an autonomous robot, and it continually made a mistake but you couldn't tell why. Ultimately, you might end up having to review all the lines of code that made up its programming, hoping that the error would just jump out at you. In order to avoid such scenarios, MIT's Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi and Shayegan Omidshafiei have created a system known as measurable virtual reality (MVR). It projects a robot's perceptions and intentions onto the floor, so that designers can see what it's thinking.  Read More

The inventor of the Ambulance Drone says it could boost cardiac arrest survival rates from...

If there's anything we can take from the barrage of delivery drones to emerge recently, its that the technology has the potential to transport objects with unprecedented efficiency. Graduate student Alec Momont from Holland's Delft University of Technology is looking to tap into this ability to reduce emergency response times to cardiac arrest incidents. His Ambulance Drone prototype carries a defibrillator to the scene and promises to dramatically increase the rate of survival.  Read More

Illuminated lampshades take to the air (with a little help from a drone inside each one), ...

Fans of the Disney classic Fantasia will no doubt remember the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of that film, in which a hapless Mickey Mouse accidentally brings an army of mops to life. Well, Cirque du Soleil has teamed up with ETH Zurich and spinoff group Verity Studios to create a somewhat similar video entitled Sparked – instead of mops, however, it features a fleet of lampshade-clad quadcopters.  Read More

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