Amsterdam will get the world’s first fleet of autonomous boats, ushering in a new chapter in the international push for autonomous vehicles thanks to ROBOAT, the world’s first large-scale research that explores and tests the possibilities of autonomous systems on water. A collaboration between America’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS), the ROBOAT project will have a round of testing in Amsterdam’s canals in September 2018.
“This project imagines a fleet of autonomous boats for transporting goods and people that can also work together to produce temporary floating infrastructure, such as pontoons or stages that can be assembled or disassembled in a matter of hours,” explains Carlo Ratti, Professor of the Practice of Urban Technologies in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
ROBOAT will also deploy environmental sensing to monitor water quality and offer data for assessing and predicting issues on public health, pollution, and the environment.
Here’s a smaller version zipping around Amsterdam’s canals:
Jurgen Braun who restores statues has programmed a robot to carve the 12 apostles out of stone for the Latin school in Nijmegen, Gelderland, a national monument.
The apostles’ socles were eroding and the statues became dangerous, which is why they were taken down. The robot, that hails from Tienhoven, South Holland, can produce one apostle in a week by working 24 hours a day, something a human just can’t do.
Although the robot can do a lot itself, an artist has to intervene in order to complete the statues properly because robots aren’t perfect, explains Braun.
Yesterday Schiphol Airport started tests with a robot to help passengers find their gates, which are often missed due to short transfer times, delayed flights, problems getting around the airport and language barriers.
Spencer the autonomous robot guide (see picture in the link) was designed by the University of Twente together with European partners from Sweden, France, Germany and Switzerland for KLM. The robot won’t drive into a group of travellers, but wait calmly until that group approaches it. “Spencer needs to be able to recognise group behaviour and obstacles, such as baggage trolleys as well as respond to unforeseen situations”. Tests are being carried out this week and won’t involve actual passengers just yet, something that will be done in March 2016 with a new and improved Spencer.
I happened to land at Schiphol yesterday on a day where it had closed down all but one runway due to very strong winds. On my flight, which left and hour and fifteen minutes behind schedule and had us in a turbulent holding pattern above Schiphol, many passengers had already missed their connections or had very short transfer times. I can imagine that when you’re in a rush to get the right answer, a robot may not be able to pick up on your stress, a bit like the photocopier that senses your panic and just won’t print. Then you’d want to talk to a human, as already postulated earlier this year by the University of Twente: “a social robot with an overly human appearance creates an unrealistic sense of expectation for most Dutch people”.