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The past few months have been exciting months for William L.
Whitaker at Carnegie
Professor Mellon University is considered one of the most important robot designers in the United States.
The first was a demonstration by Ambler's government officials. Whittaker's 19-foot tall, six-
A leg robot designed to explore Mars.
In a rock garden in Carnegie
On the campus of Mellon University, Ambler walked through the tall big stones and avoided the holes, which was a huge achievement for a robot.
"This is a sacred moment," said the doctor.
Whitaker, 42, is a former Marine whose friends call him red.
"It's mysterious to see Ambler get up and leave.
My heart is in my throat
"One afternoon a few weeks later, in a less formal presentation,
Whitaker and his colleagues drove a van full of electronics on the streets of Pittsburgh.
When a class driver controls the vehicle, a computer behind it and a laser vision system "watch" The Van go up and down the white line.
Then the driver let go of the steering wheel, the computer took over the car, perfectly turned the van to the street and parked in his own lane.
This is also a major achievement of robots, because simple tasks such as guiding vehicles to travel in a straight line have long plagued machines that imitate the most basic movements of human beings.
"At this point, there's nothing to do but take the beer out and celebrate," Dr. Whittaker said.
In the past 20 years, robots seem to be about to become a powerful machine to reduce heavy work and usher in a new era for mankind --
They have been successful in the factory, performing repetitive tasks at fixed workstations, and the result is a highly automated factory.
Still, they are disappointing as auto assistants.
But now some experts think robot technology may be on the edge of a long term.
Robots have become mobile, flexible and intelligent waiting times.
The increasing power of computers, the decline in costs, the progress of software, the steady development of vision and other electronic sensing systems are all possible.
To prove this, experts point out the zoo of robotic creatures that have emerged in recent years from places like Carnegie --
On-site robotics center at Mellon University
Whittaker is the head of the Jet Propulsion Lab at MIT and Caltech and similar facilities.
What makes new machines different is that they are mobile and use wheels or feet.
They navigate precisely and use basic intelligence to solve the problems they encounter.
"The game has changed dramatically . "Whittaker.
"The services robots can offer today are far better than those they did 10 years ago. "In Dr.
Whittaker's vision is that robots like Ambler and self-driving cars like vans will lead to an era in which humans work with mobile robots.
A new generation of machines will thrive where humans cannot go, and for their human masters the physical feat is too dangerous, too boring or impossible at all.
For example, robots are very successful in using in a clean environment
At the end of last year, operations started after a flood at a nuclear power plant in the north of Oswego. Y.
A large room was littered with barrels of nuclear waste.
"This is not the factory of the future . "Whittaker said.
"The idea of making it in a factory does not exist in the outside world.
He imagined that the machine would be as ordinary as driving a truck.
Industry with legs?
It's too early to say whether this latest enthusiasm will continue, and spawning begins.
These robot companies thrive and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, making robots common in the workplace.
Robot experts are incurable optimists, and many obstacles must be overcome before useful robots appear.
For example, the computer that guided Ambler is still too large to fit on the robot itself.
But early signs are encouraging.
Simple Mobile robots have begun to enter the commercial field, and more robots may appear soon.
Some enthusiasts say there are thousands of machines working by the end of the century.
Big companies eagerly follow the path pioneered by a handful of startupsup companies.
Military contractors such as General Power, FMC, Martin Marietta and Lockheed are driving mobile robot applications.
Other companies such as Westinghouse, Combustion Engineering and John Deere are monitoring areas such as hazardous waste cleaning and automation of heavy equipment. Caterpillar Inc.
Established a joint venture with Carnegie.
Mellon Group manufactures robot drivers for earthwork machinery used in open-air mines.
The machine sometimes turns upside down, causing injuries or death to the driver.
The US federal mining authority is testing a coal miner at a coal mine in Pennsylvania.
"We are trying to take the man out of action using modern technology," said Thomas J . "
Fisher, Bureau research director.
Redzone is a commercial company split from Carnegie.
The Mellon Group is building robots that can clean up nuclear waste sites. Dr.
Whittaker's team signed a contract with NASA to design a robot to inspect the tiles of the shuttle.
The Pentagon is sponsoring a mobile robot version of the military HMMV, a utility vehicle that replaces Jeeps.
Despite lobbying by some computer scientists, Congress banned the use of self-driving vehicles to transport weapons in 1987,
Whittaker said the robot HMMV is ideal for tasks such as clearing mines or digging in areas under enemy fire.
Rival Ambler has sparked some controversy over design philosophy in the country's tightly integrated group of roboticians. One group --
Called "shaft head"-
They prefer wheels rather than legs because they believe that wheeled vehicles can cover far distances as quickly as self-driving cars do.
Another traditional design tends to favor small "artificial life" robots that are programmed to think like insects or other simple creatures.
These people are called "-lifers. "An M. I. T. group of A-
Lifters are exploring Mars with miniature feetlong robots.
They advocated hundreds of such insects.
Like crawling on the surface of Mars.
A prototype called Attila has been built with six legs, 150 sensors and 25 motors.
The group of "walkers" is at Carnegie
Mellon chose legs because walking machines can carefully choose their way to make sure they have a firm one before taking the next step, whether on Mars or on the bottom of the ocean around the well
Ambler looks like a cross between an egg beater and a spider.
It has two sets of three legs.
Each leg can swing to find a new foothold.
Each leg is essentially a Pillar connected by an arm that can swing forward or outward and, if blocked, between the two towers.
Like all robots, Ambler is a fusion of electrical and mechanical engineering as well as computer science and a meticulous collection of sensors, motors, motion controllers, computer hardware and software.
In a big Carnegie-
Mellon Tower, walking machine is an uncoordinated scene.
But the real gem is in a nearby room, connected to the robot through the umbilical cord.
The computer there runs a collection of programs called the robot task control architecture.
These programs push the mobile robot forward, following the reasoning process is very similar to the reasoning process used in computer chess.
The plan looks at the situation facing it and considers many alternative paths before throwing out all but the most promising ones.
The plan plans a road step by step, taking into account the unexpected situation, the unexpected situation or even the failure.
Surprisingly, the main program itself is small and contains only thousands of lines of programming code, not millions of lines.
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Ambler's first public step at the NASA review board in December was a great success.
The challenge is to walk in an unknown rock and a hole in the ground.
Perfect performance by Ambler.
But a few weeks later, the project lost NASA's funding for the 1992 fiscal year for manned Mars exploration alternatives.
NASA officials who support manned exploration believe robots will never be as flexible as humans.
While Ambler and NASA's interest in Mars robots has received public attention, more importantly, a quiet joint venture between doctors
Whittaker's team and Caterpillar have created a robot driver for earthmoving workers in open-air mines.
Caterpillar declined to discuss the project, but industry executives familiar with the project said the project is one of the most ambitious uses that Robotics has conceived so far, involving the latest navigation technology.
A disaster took advantage of the Pentagon's NavLab.
Caterpillar provides a supported mobile laboratory for ground navigation research, which receives location signals from navigation satellites, which developed a kind of ability
A mile long road with several feet of precision.
The system uses a laser scanning vision system and satellite signals to accurately track a predetermined path.
People familiar with the project say it has reached a speed of more than 30 miles per hour.
The origin of Carnegie
The Center for on-site robotics at Mellon university dates back to Dr. robotics.
Whitaker and his colleagues
Ten years ago, workers designed the basement of a damaged nuclear reactor that ventured into the Three mile Island of Pennsylvania.
Becket Group Co. , Ltd.
Despite spending nearly $1 billion, Westinghouse was prevented from entering the basement to check and start cleaning up. Dr.
Whitaker and Carnegie-
The Mellon team built three.
A wheeled device that walks down the damaged reactor corridor under remote control.
These machines are repaired using robotic arms in the most dangerous places where humans cannot risk.
The most expensive machine cost only $1.
5 million of the construction and projects are considered a great success, Dr. Whittaker said.
"The industrial group was initially skeptical, but it was a lowrisk, low-
Cost risk, "said J.
Todd Simmonds, then deputy director of Carnegie
Mellon robotics center is now president of Redzone, a commercial enterprise of robotics group.
Advertising for his next challenge
Whittaker wants to take the idea of a wheeled robot to another level: a robot vehicle that can guide itself through the state, what he calls a "big crossing ".
"The whole state?
Give me two and a half years.
We can get more than a dozen graduate students to achieve this goal . "Whittaker said.
Experiments on the streets of Pittsburgh point the way.
The mobile robot has a satellite antenna on the roof that can get constant data from the navigation satellite.
The on-board computer that understands the route compares the position of the vehicle to the position seen by sensors such as the laser vision system.
Other systems will guide the vehicle, control the speed of the vehicle, view and avoid other traffic, and handle accidents.
"If anyone in the world can find a way to make things happen, it's Red Whittaker . "
Mel Montemerlo, manager of automation and robotics at NASA.
While some people may think that such projects will cost billions of dollars
Whitaker thinks the best way is probably a small group of graduate students and hard work for several summer vacations.
"I tell you, I'm going to roll up my sleeves to get it," he said . ".
Can Attila conquer Mars?
At MIT, a small group of robot experts talk about building "artificial creatures" robots that can explore hostile environments by making the same decisions that ants or cricket might make.
A research team led by computer scientist Rodney Brooks believes that it is best to explore Mars by sending hundreds of insect-like machines to Mars.
They will be cheaper and more self-
More dependent than Ambler. type machine.
They named their Mars robot Attila.
It has six legs, 25 motors and 150 sensors.
The group's philosophy stems from artificial life, a new branch of artificial intelligence research.
Computer programmers try to imitate the behavior of less intelligent creatures than humans.
A traditional approach like Ambler is based on a single set of control programs designed to solve specific problems.
By contrast, the designer of Attila from-the-bottom-up approach.
The system is not a single control data processor, but develops its own unique behavior through the interaction of dozens of independent processors.
Followers of this approach are talking about building creatures with "emergency" behavior. The M. I. T.
The researchers believe that an Ambler-
The type robot facing a new problem is prepared for it in addition to its programming, just like chess --Play the program.
But since Attila-
The type robot does not have an overall control program, and it may choose a new solution based on the latest data obtained from its dozens of data processing units.
Advertising is the motto of M. I. T.
Artificial biology researchers?
"Fast, loose, out of control.
Soviet officials had expressed interest in Carnegie four years ago.
The University of Mellon's site Robotics Center uses robots to take risks inside the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor. J.
Todd Simmonds, red Whitaker and Chris Frome set up Redzone Inc. to respond.
Contract with the United StatesS. S. R.
Caught in red tape and finally failed, but Redzone survived and began to thrive on various contracts from Boeing to the US Navy.
Redzone now employs 20 people to focus on mobile robots to deal with hazardous waste.
The company sees this as a potentially huge business.
National estimates of clean nuclear waste
The bill is up to $100 billion.
In many cases, robots may do the job faster, cheaper and safer than humans.
Redzone executives pointed out that at Unit 1, Unit 9, Niagra Mohawk Power Corporation, N. Oswego, it successfully cleaned up the pollution caused by the flood. Y.
There, the flood flooded the floor of a building, scattered about barrels of nuclear waste.
Redzone has developed a robot that moves along an existing track, clearing debris scattered on its path.
Now Redzone is preparing to ship its next hazardous waste robot, a machine called a remote tank detection system, to the DOE hazardous waste project at Wash Hanford.
After testing, the robot will eventually use its snake-like 43-
Inspect and clean up a radioactive waste dumping area in Idaho.
A version of this article appears on page 3003001 of the national edition of April 21, 1991, titled: living creatures in Pittsburgh.