Nomad Has Confidence
Pittsburgh - February 4, 2000 - With the help of machine learning and statistical techniques, Nomad puts a numerical value on its confidence that a rock is or is not of extraterrestrial origin.
It classified its first meteorite with a confidence rating 2.5 times higher than any other rock it examined. The more rocks it studied, the higher its confidence rating went in making its determinations.
Six researchers from Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute and ANSMET team member John Schutt accompanied Nomad to Elephant Moraine. After Nomad located the meteorites, Schutt collected and gave them a temporary numerical label.
"This is a small step for a robot and a big step for robot kind," said William L. "Red" Whittaker, principal investigator for the Robotic Search for Antarctic Meteorites initiative.
"This marks the first discovery in the natural world by robotic machine intelligence and sets a precedent for a new class of robotic science on Earth and in space," said Whittaker.
"Nomad's meteorite finds are a great achievement," said Apostolopoulos. "However, it had to gather still more data. During the last three days of the expedition, the robot was turned loose in an unscouted area to seek meteorites among high concentrations of terrestrial rocks mixed with snow and ice.
"Making more interpretations like this in the field enabled Nomad to prove its robustness. Further analysis of the field data will allow a solid scientific evaluation of the robot's abilities and can help set expectations for future generations of planetary rovers."
"With these finds, Nomad takes robotics beyond the typical concerns about nuts and bolts and into the universe of scientific inquiry," said Ralph Harvey, principal investigator for ANSMET.
"We all dream of a future where robots can act and perhaps even think independently," he added. "Nomad has now taken the first steps along that path," added Harvey.
Nomad's expedition to Elephant Moraine is a collaborative effort between the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Antarctic Search for Meteorites program. It is being performed under the auspices of NSF's Office of Polar Programs.
The Nomad robot has been developed through research at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute and is funded by grants from NASA's Surface Systems Thrust of the Cross Enterprise Technology Development and Space Telerobotics programs.
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