Thanks to the Spirit and Opportunity missions, the public has a pretty good idea of what a rover is: essentially an electrically-powered cart that uses a set of wheels to move across the terrain. However, some JPL scientists have a very different vision of what a rover could be: essentially a beach ball blown across the surface by the wind. In late January those scientists tested out the aptly-named Tumbleweed rover: a ball about 1.8 meters in diameter that spent eight days rolling across the polar terrain of Antarctica, propelled by the wind. The device, which resembles less a rover like Spirit and Opportunity than part of the air bags that cushioned their landing, collected data on atmospheric conditions and transmitted them (via an Iridium satellite telephone) back to JPL. Scientists would one day like to deploy a similar rover on the polar ice caps of Mars and perhaps on other worlds, including Venus and Saturn’s moon Titan.
How AI is reinventing what computers are
Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.
These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems
They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.
A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click
Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.
Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient
The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.
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