Thanks for the article, naperlou! Techcruch recently posted an article and video from the folks at the European RoboEarth project describing a system called "Rapyuta". This cloud-based engine collects and stores information that has been gathered by all sorts of robotic sensors which is then shared with other robots and sensors systems -- described as a "Facebook for robots".
Unlink the millions of years of evolution in biological systems, we seem to be on a near-vertical exponential part of the curve when it comes to automated systems.
On your shifting issue, I was told that power cycling the car (disconnect the battery completely for long enough to lose all power everywhere) will make the transmission control lose it's settings. It may shift funny for a while until it re-learns the shift pressures. The shift pressure control valve in those transmissions is a pretty common source of trouble. it is a $50 part that takes $500 worth of time to dig out.
Yes, indeed, I believe we are at a nearly-vertical part of the exponential curve right now, Bill. It's frightening to think of what that will mean for the next century. I don't think we have the cognitive abilities to even imagine that.
Chuck, I share your amazement in our cognitive abilities. We have seen so many examples of our technology extending our ability to create even more advanced technology and that reinforces my optimism. Thomas Edison famously did not select Tungsten as the filament material for his light bulb because we did not have the material processing technology needed to turn this extremely hard refractory metal into a thin filament. The Human Genome project was projected to take 15 years to complete, but due to innovation along the way provided a rough draft in 10 years (exponential yet again).
When I teach physics, we need to review the basics of time, position, motion, force, work, and energy, but it short order are able to have productive discussions of the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs Boson. Things are definitely arriving at a rapid pace, but thankfully, our mental models are improving right along with them. =]
Thanks for the link, Lou. It's fun to learn more about control systems for the robots I've written about: the tuna, worms and bugs you mention. But robots are getting really sophisticated, and I wonder how long MCUs will be able to keep up.
Ann, one can never be sure, but MCUs are increasing in power as well. The latest trend is to combine MCUs with technologies like FPGAs. This increases their power tremendously by combining the logic processing capability of the MCU with the signal processing capability of the FPGA. The MCUs themselves often have some level of signal processing capability built in as with the ARM M3/4 line. Look for a blog on this topic from me soon.
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