news    views    talk    learn    |    about    contribute     republish     crowdfunding     archives     events
Metals shop and auto mechanics in high school; B.A. in Biology, eventually leading to an interest in General Systems and computing; interest in robotics sparked by the realization that autonomous machines could enable a vast improvement in land management.
by   -   February 3, 2017
Cows in stable wait for food from red feeding robot

Let’s assume, for a moment, that the vision I’ve laid out in this blog is ridiculously successful, and, over the next few decades, robotic devices take over all aspects of tending land and crops and handling material inputs and produce, and do it using increasingly sustainable practices that begin the process of retaining and enhancing biological diversity and reviving overworked soils. What’s left for farmers to do? Will there even be a need for humans on farms?

by   -   January 25, 2017


I’ve come around to the view that the best and most inclusive term for high-concept farming which is both sustainably productive and ecologically responsible is Regenerative Agriculture. It implies all that is meant by permaculture, agroecology, carbon farming, and organic farming, but goes beyond these to focus on living matter in the soil, and in this is closely aligned with the term biodynamic. That said, I’m not prepared to argue the point; I only say this by way of explaining why I’ve chosen to use this term here.

by   -   January 19, 2017
Image: Wheat Genetics and Germplasm Improvement
Image: Wheat Genetics and Germplasm Improvement

I’ve long believed that Augmented Reality (AR) and robotics are closely related. Both model their environments to some degree. Robotics uses that model to guide the behavior of a machine, whereas AR uses it to provide an enhanced sensory experience to a human.

by   -   April 17, 2015
Dry California riverbed. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Dry California riverbed. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Groundwater levels in California’s Central Valley are down to historic lows and reservoirs have been depleted following four consecutive years of severe drought in the state. California is set to introduce water rationing in the coming weeks, and though the new rationing rules will focus on urban areas and not farms for the time being, they serve as a warning bell to farmers who will inevitably need to adapt to the effects of climate change on food production. Long term solutions are needed to help make agriculture drought resistant. How could robotics help?

by   -   January 27, 2015

Farm_SilosOn January 13 the EU announced its list of robotics projects funded under Horizon 2020, the EU funding program for research and innovation. Agriculture is one of four “priority domains” for robotics funding under H2020, and of these newly funded (or refunded) projects, two – Flourish and SWEEPER – are explicitly related to agriculture.

by   -   December 23, 2013

Materials used to produce IRO competition events being prepared for removal from convention center

Materials used to produce International Robot Olympiad competition events.

The 2013 (15th annual) International Robot Olympiad competition has come to a close. Next year it will take place in Beijing, China, and is tentatively scheduled for October. Between 400 and 500 young people from 10 countries (including Canada and Mexico, as well as the U.S.) participated in this year’s event, and there would have been approximately 60 more had the bulk of the Indonesian team not been prevented from obtaining visas.

by   -   December 18, 2013

Let me admit up front that I’m not the best person to be covering a robotics competition. In fact this is only the second one I’ve attended; the first, Sparkfun’s AVC, is a tough act to follow and set my expectations pretty high. On the other hand, the theme of this year’s International Robot Olympiad is Robots in Agriculture, which is right in line with my own interests, so maybe it’s a wash in this instance.

by   -   October 25, 2013

The mechanical arm

No, this is not about shapeshifting robots, come to save or destroy Earth. It is about transforming the contexts within which robotic technologies are applied, and about practicing robotics with the intention of bringing about transformational results. In some cases this means finding better ways of accomplishing the same ends as before. In other cases it means pursuing ends that were previously unachievable. It hinges on the recognition that robotics is a revolutionary development, on the order of fire or writing, with the potential to transform everything it touches.

by   -   August 15, 2013

There’s not much more about Sphero 2.0 on the Orbotix website other than this two-minute video, but Evan Ackerman of Automaton has a little more information. The following is from his article:

Today, Orbotix is introducing the Sphero 2.0, packed with new hardware that makes it faster, smarter, faster, brighter, and faster than ever. And did we mention it’s faster? Because it’s definitely faster.

by   -   August 12, 2013

SparkFun National Tour

Following their east and west coast tours late last year, SparkFun has embarked on the ambitious goal of taking their experiential learning nationwide, with 50 stops in 50 states.

From the SparkFun National Tour page:

During our tour, we will teach workshops to students of all ages as well as teachers, librarians, after-school coordinators, and other educators, showing how electronics can be a vital part of education. Whether you’ve never played around with DIY electronics or you are a seasoned pro, we will give you the tools, knowledge, and skills you need to explore the wonderful world of how electronics fits with STEAM.

A video introducing the SparkFun National Tour (Feb. 11th), and two updates (July 9th & August 11th), appear below or after the break.

by   -   August 11, 2013

On June 30th of this year, Ryerson University in Toronto held an event titled UAVs: Pros vs Cons Symposium. Some of the presentations have since been incorporated into a YouTube playlist by Nikola Danaylov.