Navigating dynamic 3D environments while flying!

Technology
Moving through busy environments is a complex task that is becoming increasingly easy for computer systems to perform on the groud. The task is made even harder while flying if you want to fly low to the ground. New obstacles become serious problems, like power lines and overpasses. A team at Carnegie Mellon University have modified a UAV to fly low to the ground successfully. The UAV can have a pre-loaded map or it can build its map as it flies using its laser range finder sensors. The lasers sweep an oval pattern out front of the vehicle and develop a dynamic map. If an obstacle is detected the system plans a route around it. Current UAV's cannot fly low to the ground because they lack a system like this.…
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The military gives the Turing Test a go.

Fun Bits, Technology
We have talked about the turing test before, now it appears the US Army wants to give it a shot in World of Warcraft. Along with several other advanced technologies like regenerating body parts, erasing bad memories, and electronic telepathy they are attempting to develop virtual soldiers that look and behave like a real human. To test these virtual humans they are going to deploy them in World of Warcraft. The virtual soldiers should be able to convince humans they are real, going as far as emulating emotion and using local slang correctly while responding to questions and communicating effectively with other players. It appears the Army is attempting to tackle some very complex AI and Nanotechnological problems. If one of their AI soldiers does manage to fit in properly…
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Adrift in the silence, but now a melody from the void

Uncategorized
Over the last week or so I haven't seen many breakthrough bits of research that I wanted to share with Automatons Adrift. I have been reading the papers from AIIDE 2008 and some of them have been very interesting. I will share a synopsis of some of the cool ideas shared at that conference in a later post. Now there has been a song from the void. The automatons are singing, or at least trying to sing. A UK researcher has been experimenting with autonomous agents that communicate through singing and work together to improvise a song or melody. The robots currently attempt to mimic eachothers sounds and it has been scaled up to twenty robots. Further research in this field can be applied to group communication and organized planning.…
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Desktop Super Computers and Singularity Friday

Fun Bits, Technology
What is the Singularity? Ever hear of Moore's Law? If you are reading this blog you probably have. Moore's Law is an informal law about technological advancement. In a nutshell it states, that every 18 months or so, the power of computers doubles. Computer power has been following this trend for 40 years and it is set to continue following it for another 40 years. The idea of the singularity is, if technology does indeed continue to double at this rate, in another 40 or 50 years the sheer power of the computing systems available will so far surpass mankinds abilities that the formation of an artificial mega intelligence will be impossible to avoid and it will be a new age of evolution. Of course, this new age could go…
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The Neuroevolutionary Solver documentation updated.

Updates
The Neuroevolutionary Solver "How to install and run" section is pretty much complete. These instructions should make it easy to get a NS environment up and running so you can perform your own experiments. More updates to come in the future, making the NS one of the easiest systems to use for Evolution of Artificial Neural Networks.
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Neuroevolutionary Solver Version 1.01 Available – Bug Fix.

Problems
So sometimes when you are working on some code, you like to write a little bit of debugging code and build it into your system so you can confirm that a component is working as it should. I had built such a piece of code to be certain that the artificial neural networks we use as phenotypes are consistent between generations. The code confirmed that structurally they were consistent and that their output is consistent after one step of evaluation. The first evaluation of the reformed network has not propagated through the network completely and consequently the very first set of outputs of your neural network are not as precise as they were in the previous generation. The second evaluation puts the neural network back to its original normal state.…
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I used to grow crystals as a child

Technology
When I was quite young my mother gave me a grow your own crystal kit. It came with a bag of Alum and instructions. I first had to grow seed crystals in a super saturated solution of Alum and water. Then I placed the best seed crystal at the bottom of a jar and covered it in another saturated solution of Alum. After several weeks I had a fairly nice big crystal, formed from my seed crystal. It didn't do anything except look pretty. Scientists have really stepped that up a notch with these Self-Assembled Orgaic Circuits. In order to form these complex structures they create a silicon dioxide substrate with gold electrodes using conventional techniques. They then submerge the substrate in a solution containing the organic semiconductor and the…
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More useful junk

Technology
In a paper published today in PLoS Genetics the research supporting the value of so-called junk DNA gained more ground. As is stated in the article biologists have known about junk DNA for many years but it was felt that it was mostly extraneous data in the genetic code. If you have read the research behind SDNEAT, you know that scientists are starting to change their perceptions of junk DNA. Segmental duplications seem to be critical in the evolution of species, they allow for high levels of genetic variation and mutation with a smaller chance of disabling the original genome all together. This new study suggests that DNA 'retrotransposons" are important to human evolution. One specific set of retrotransposons are called Alu elements: "Alu elements are a major source of…
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Autonomous Helicopters

Technology
These automatons are certainly not adrift but they are definitely airborne and capable! Computer Scientists at Stanford have developed an autonomous helicopter that can learn from a human expert pilot to perform complex manoeuvres better than the original human expert! The learning system does not just copy the controls for performing the manoeuvres it watches several built in sensors for the state of the environment around the helicopter and through several iterations develops an algorithm that can handle situations that were not part of the training but allow the autonomous pilot to complete the manoeuvre. These adapted agents could even keep more precise control over the aircraft than the original pilot could. "For five minutes, the chopper, on its own, ran through a dizzying series of stunts beyond the capabilities…
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