Crop Circles And Artificial Intelligence

Never heard of a crop circle? That’s when some joker tramps around at night in a hay field making patterns that some people are convinced are made by ET’s kin. That’s a little like what the S&T Robotics Competition Team has been doing lately.
LionsparkDSC_0165_2.jpgThe Rolla Lions Club graciously served up a corner of their beautiful park for the ’10 crew’s practice area. The Miners laid out a simulation course that mimics the IGVC challenge (which NO team completed last year, BTW) that involves James Anderson, some white paint, and a 4-inch brush.
The IGVC (Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition) is basically a figure-eight (or infinity symbol) obstacle course over which autonomous robots must run while staying within the lines and not running over anything. The Miner Robotics Team has a great motive platform but sometimes struggles with Aluminator’s brain. This year they think they’ve finally worked out the brain cramps because the sensors are finally gathering the data that the AI can properly interpret.
The on-board computer processes the info, but Aluminator also has Wi-Fi so it can share the data with its designers*. Monday’s readings show the ‘bot has great recognition of the boundary lines, so the next move is to adjust the sensitivity so that random noise pixels don’t play havoc with its reactions.
When you set up a replica course, you have to take into account all variables. The June event takes place at midday, but class schedules often mandate that spring practice takes place near sunset. LionsparkDSC_0189.jpgThis affected Aluminator because when it turned westward the sun’s glare on the sheet metal blinded the cameras so it couldn’t see the boundaries. It does much better when it turns back toward the east, so the temporary solution could be to cover the sheet metal with a dark matter board to reduce the glare.
*This data serves as feedback for the designers. If the robot “decides” to wander off course in search of a pretty flower, the operator can only watch helplessly as all that work goes down the drain. They can’t interfere, except to hit the emergency “abort” switch, drag it off the course, and go back to the coding room.