Monday, January 02, 2006

Robots For Release Into Forest

A new telerobotic surveillance system that enables visitors to "tour" Yosemite National Park via the Internet may help capture footage of the bear burglars. The installation would be a proof-of-concept test for the Collaborative Observatories for Natural Environments (CONE) technology that UC Berkeley robotics professor Ken Goldberg is developing to aid scientists studying natural animal behavior in remote places.

Working with his former graduate student Dezhen Song, now a professor at Texas A&M University, Goldberg is designing robotic "observatories" that scientists could leave behind at their research sites. Once they return to the laboratory, they could log on to the Internet to see what the camera see and steer it to keep an eye on their animal subjects from afar.

The idea, Goldberg explains, is that the CONE would be contained in a small, wheeled trunk. After opening the lid, the system automatically kicks into operation, seeking out a satellite connection for Internet access and charging its batteries via solar panels. Meanwhile, the scientist distributes a handful of small, wireless sensors (pioneered at UC Berkeley) that monitor motion, temperature, and other variables. T he sensors self-organize into an ad hoc wireless network and pass their data from one to another, bucket-brigade style until the information reaches the CONE.

Currently, Goldberg and Song are working with the National Geographic Society on a plan to test their prototype CONE in Yosemite in the near future.

Lab Notes: Research from the Berkeley College of Engineering


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