Explainer: what is FPV drone racing?

Drone racing can be done indoors or out, as long as there are obstacles that make the course interesting. Porco 777

Jonathan Roberts, Queensland University of Technology

The new sport of drone racing sees small but very fast robots fly around a circuit littered with obstacles. Unlike motorsports we are familiar with, the course of a drone race can be three-dimensional, with obstacles they need to fly around, under, over and even through.

The pilots stay on the ground but they fly with a view as if they were sitting in the aircraft. This technique is known as first-person-view, or FPV, and you will often see the sport referred to as FPV drone racing.

system-guide/”>FPV, and you will often see the sport referred to as FPV drone racing.

Drone racing began as an underground activity. Early races took place in empty car parks, and parking garages are still a favourite venue for drone racers.

Forests are also a perfect venue for drone racing enthusiasts, possibly inspired by the speeder bike chase scene from the Star Wars movie Return of the Jedi.

An affordable sport

The secret of drone racing’s rapid development lies in the technology needed to participate. Nearly all of the required components are relatively cheap and quite accessible. This is the exact opposite of most motor sport.

The main elements of a drone racing set-up are the drone itself, an on-board video camera, a decent video transmitter, a pair of immersive video goggles and a set of remote controls. All of these components are now just one internet order away.

A cheap set-up could be assembled for a few hundred dollars. Unlike Formula 1 car racing, you can build a racer at home and enter yourself into a race competition. This is something for the masses to actually do, which is an exciting prospect for the armchair sports enthusiast.

Even a paper plane FPV drone is now available. You fold a paper plane, just like you did when you were a kid, and you then install the motors, autopilot and camera system. You use your smart phone in a box as your FPV goggles.

Setting up a homemade drone for the next round.
Stefan Hrabar, Author provided

Safety

The main reason drone racing is cheap is because there are no people on-board and hence the drones are very small. Some of them are tiny; they only need to be large enough to carry the video camera, battery and some electronics.

This also means that the sport is not overly hazardous to those in the immediate area. Even though the drones race up to speeds approaching 150km/h outdoors, indoors their speed is more limited due to the proximity of obstacles, and they typically weigh only hundreds of grams. Some of these drones fit into the palm of your hand.

The nature of the courses also means that the chance of impact with the humans controlling the drones or spectators is quite low. The courses are deliberately set up that way.

When flying outside, drone racers must operate according to their country’s specific airspace regulations, which differ among nations. Some are up-to-date and consider the use of drones, while others are more outdated and the use of drones is complex and sometimes even impossible.

The motivation for strict controls is to keep people not involved in the flying out of harm’s way and also reducing the risk that a drone could fly away and pose a serious hazard for a regular aircraft carrying people. All regulators are grappling with how drones will regulated as people get more into FPV racing.

When racing indoors, there are no air space regulations for drone racers to worry about. This is one of the reasons that racing around empty car parks, warehouses and office buildings is popular.

Chasing the money

The rapid rise of drone racing is already showing that this will be a big money sport. In 2015, Chad Nowak from Brisbane, Australia, was crowned thefirst world champion of drone racing.

His first prize was A$15,000 and he had only been drone racer for a year. He has now moved to the US to be closer to the centre of the big prize money drone racing scene. As the sport grows, it is inevitable that leagues will form, sponsorship will be attracted, and there will be regional and national champions.

In January 2016, an organisation called the Drone Racing League (DRL) announced that it had secured A$8 million to run an international FPV drone racing series.

Like modern Formula 1 racing, where the viewer at home can see a live video stream from the cars, DRL says that it will give viewers a customisable view from the drones. Other rival leagues and events are forming as interest grows.

And just like most existing motorsports, unfortunately, it is clear that drone racing is starting out with major gender inequality issues. The DRL has one female pilot out of the 17 listed.

An innovative drone racing group in the Gold Fields of Western Australia is trying to use the new sport to attract tourists to their region. Their videos from drones racing over spectacular desert-like landscapes are reminiscent of pod racing scene in Star Wars The Phantom Menace.

Drone racing is such a new activity that it is hard to predict if it will become a major sport to rival established individual racing sports. It may be quickly superseded by the next big thing in tech. Jet pack racing anyone?

The Conversation

Jonathan Roberts, Professor in Robotics, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

My robot Valentine: could you fall in love with a robot?

Can a robot really feel and express emotions such as love? Shutterstock/Charles Taylor

Kate Letheren, Queensland University of Technology and Jonathan Roberts, Queensland University of Technology

Imagine it’s Valentine’s Day and you’re sitting in a restaurant across the table from your significant other, about to start a romantic dinner.

As you gaze into each other’s eyes, you wonder how it can possibly be true that as well as not eating, your sweetheart does not – cannot – love you. Impossible, you think, as you squeeze its synthetic hand.

Could this be the future of Valentine’s Day for some? Recent opinion indicates that yes, we might just fall in love with our robot companions one day.

Already, robots are entering our homes at increasing rates with many households now owning a robot vacuum cleaner.

Robotic toys are becoming more affordable and are interacting with our children. Some robots are even helping rehabilitate special needs children or teach refugee children the language of their new home.

Robot romance

Will these appliances and toys continue to develop into something more sophisticated and more human-like, to the point where we might start to see them as possible romantic partners?

While some may compare this to objectophilia (falling in love with objects), we must ask whether this can truly be the case when the object is a robot that appears and acts like a human.

It is already the norm to love and welcome our pets as family members. This shows us that some varieties of love needn’t be a purely human, nor even a sexual phenomenon. There is even evidence that some pets such as dogs experience very similar emotions to humans, including grief when their owner dies.

Surveys in Japan over the past few years have shown a decline in young people either in a relationship or even wanting to enter a relationship. In 2015, for instance, it was reported that 74% of Japanese in their 20s were not in a relationship, and 40% of this age group were not looking for one. Academics in Japan are considering that young people are turning to digital substitutes for relationships, for example falling in love with Anime and Manga characters.

What is love?

If we are to develop robots that can mirror our feelings and express their digital love for us, we will first need to define love.

Pointing to a set of common markers that define love is difficult, whether it be human-to-human or human-to-technology. The answer to “what is love?” is something that humans have been seeking for centuries, but a start suggests it is related to strong attachment, kindness and common understanding.

We already have the immensely popular Pepper, a robot designed to read and respond to emotions and described as a “social companion for humans”.

How close are we to feeling for a robot what we might feel for a human? Recent studies show that we feel a similar amount of empathy for robot pain as we do human pain.

We also prefer our robots to be relatable by showing their “imperfect” side through boredom or over-excitement.

According to researchers in the US, when we anthropomorphise something – that is, see it as having human characteristics – we start to think of it as worthy of moral care and consideration. We also see it as more responsible for its actions – a freethinking and feeling entity.

There are certainly benefits for those who anthropomorphise the world around them. The same US researchers found that those who are lonely may use anthropomorphism as a way to seek social connection.

Robots are already being programmed to learn our patterns and preferences, hence making them more agreeable to us. So perhaps it will not be long before we are gazing into the eyes of a robot Valentine.

Society’s acceptance

Human-robot relationships could be challenging for society to accept, and there may be repercussions. It would not be the first time in history that people have fallen in love in a way that society at the time deemed “inappropriate”.

The advent of robot Valentines may also have a harmful effect on human relationships. Initially, there is likely to be a heavy stigma attached to robot relationships, perhaps leading to discrimination, or even exclusion from some aspects of society (in some cases, the isolation may even be self-imposed).

Friends and family may react negatively, to say nothing of human husbands or wives who discover their human partner is cheating on them with a robot.

Robot love in return

One question that needs to be answered is whether robots should be programmed to have consciousness and real emotions so they can truly love us back?

When love is returned by a robot.
Shutterstock/KEG

Experts such as the British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking have warned against such complete artificial intelligence, noting that robots may evolve autonomously and supersede humanity.

Even if evolution were not an issue, allowing robots to experience pain or emotions raises moral questions for the well-being of robots as well as humans.

So if “real” emotions are out of the question, is it moral to program robots with simulated emotional intelligence? This might have either positive or negative consequences for the mental health of the human partner. Would the simulated social support compensate for knowing that none of the experience was real or requited?

Importantly, digital-love may be the catalyst for the granting of human rights to robots. Such rights would fundamentally alter the world we live in – for better or for worse.

But would any of this really matter to you and your robot Valentine, or would love indeed conquer all?

The Conversation

Kate Letheren, Postdoctoral research fellow, Queensland University of Technology and Jonathan Roberts, Professor in Robotics, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Robots in health care could lead to a doctorless hospital

Would you trust your child’s health to a robot surgeon? Shutterstock/magicinfoto

Anjali Jaiprakash, Queensland University of Technology; Jonathan Roberts, Queensland University of Technology, and Ross Crawford, Queensland University of Technology

Imagine your child requires a life-saving operation. You enter the hospital and are confronted with a stark choice.

Do you take the traditional path with human medical staff, including doctors and nurses, where long-term trials have shown a 90% chance that they will save your child’s life?

Or do you choose the robotic track, in the factory-like wing of the hospital, tended to by technical specialists and an array of robots, but where similar long-term trials have shown that your child has a 95% chance of survival?

Most rational people would opt for the course of action that is more likely to save their child. But are we really ready to let machines take over from a human in delivering patient care?

Of course, machines will not always get it right. But like autopilots in aircraft, and the driverless cars that are just around the corner, medical robots do not need to be perfect, they just have to be better than humans.

So how long before robots are shown to perform better than humans at surgery and other patient care? It may be sooner, or it may be later, but it will happen one day.

But what does this mean for our hospitals? Are the new hospitals being built now ready for a robotic future? Are we planning for large-scale role changes for the humans in our future robotic factory-like hospitals?

Our future hospitals

Hospitals globally have been slow to adopt robotics and artificial intelligence into patient care, although both have been widely used and tested in other industries.

Medicine has traditionally been slow to change, as safety is at its core. Financial pressures will inevitably force industry and governments to recognise that when robots can do something better and for the same price as humans, the robot way will be the only way.

What some hospitals have done in the past 10 years is recognise the potential to be more factory-like, and hence more efficient. The term “focused factories” has been used to describe some of these new hospitals that specialise in a few key procedures and that organise the workflow in a more streamlined and industrial way.

They have even tried “lean processing” methods borrowed from the car manufacturing industry. One idea is to free up the humans in hospitals so that they can carry out more complex cases.

Some people are nervous about turning hospitals into factories. There are fears that “lean” means cutting money and hence employment. But if the motivation for going lean is to do more with the same, then it is likely that employment will change rather than reduce.

Medicine has long been segmented into many specialised fields but the doctor has been expected to travel with the patient through the full treatment pathway.

A surgeon, for example, is expected to be compassionate, and good at many tasks, such as diagnosing, interpreting tests, such as X-rays and MRIs, performing a procedure and post-operative care.

As in numerous other industries, new technology will be one of the drivers that will change this traditional method of delivery. We can see that one day, each of the stages of care through the hospital could be largely achieved by a computer, machine or robot.

Some senior doctors are already seeing a change and they are worried about the de-humanising of medicine but this is a change for the better.

Safety first but some AI already here

Our future robot-factory hospital example is the end game, but many of its components already exist. We are simply waiting for them to be tested enough to satisfy us all that they can be used safely.

There are programs to make diagnoses based on a series of questions, and algorithms inform many treatments used now by doctors.

Surgeons are already using robots in the operating theatre to assist with surgery. Currently, the surgeon remains in control with the machine being more of a slave than a master. As the machines improve, it will be possible for a trained technician to oversee the surgery and ultimately for the robot to be fully in charge.

Hospitals will be very different places in 20 years. Beds will be able to move autonomously transporting patients from the emergency room to the operating theatre, via X-ray if needed.

Triage will be done with the assistance of an AI device. Many decisions on treatment will be made with the assistance of, or by, intelligent machines.

Your medical information, including medications, will be read from a chip under your skin or in your phone. No more waiting for medical records or chasing information when an unconscious patient presents to the emergency room.

Robots will be able to dispense medication safely and rehabilitation will be robotically assisted. Only our imaginations can limit how health care will be delivered.

Who is responsible when things go wrong?

The hospital of the future may not require many doctors, but the numbers employed are unlikely to change at first.

Doctors in the near future are going to need many different skills than the doctors of today. An understanding of technology will be imperative. They will need to learn programming and computer skills well before the start of medical school. Programming will become the fourth literacy along with reading, writing (which may vanish) and arithmetic.

But who will people sue if something goes wrong? This is, sadly, one of the first questions many people ask.

Robots will be performing tasks and many of the diagnoses will be made by a machine, but at least in the near future there will be a human involved in the decision-making process.

Insurance costs and litigation will hopefully reduce as machines perform procedures more precisely and with fewer complications. But who do you sue if your medical treatment goes tragically wrong and no human has touched you? That’s a question that still needs to be answered.

So too is the question of whether people will really trust a machine to make a diagnosis, give out tablets or do an operation?

Perhaps we have to accept that humans are far from perfect and mistakes are inevitable in health care, just as they are when we put humans behind the wheel of a car. So if driverless cars are going to reduce traffic accidents and congestion then maybe doctorless hospitals will one day save more lives and reduce the cost of health care?

The Conversation

Anjali Jaiprakash, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Medical Robotics, Queensland University of Technology; Jonathan Roberts, Professor in Robotics, Queensland University of Technology, and Ross Crawford, Professor of Orthopaedic Research, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.