Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently conducted the ultimate test of artificial versus human intelligence: drone racing.JPL capped off two years of drone autonomy research (funded by Google) with an October competition between their AI and world-class pilot Ken Loo.The team, which clearly comprises fans of The Dark Knight, built three custom vehicles—Batman, Joker, Nightwing—and developed algorithms to make them fly.(The same software was integrated with Google’s Tango technology, on which JPL also worked.)Designed to racing specifications, the unmanned aerial vehicles can travel up to 80 mph in a straight line. Navigating the lab’s twisting obstacle course, however, slowed them to speeds of about 30 or 40 mph.“We pitted our algorithms against a human, who flies a lot more by feel,” project task manager Rob Reid said in a statement. “You can actually see that the AI flies the drone smoothly around the course, whereas human pilots tend to accelerate aggressively, so their path is jerkier.”So, who came out on top? And what do the results mean for the impending robot revolution?You can rest easy: Airborne cyborgs won’t be turning on us—yet.According to JPL, the contestants started with similar lap times, but after dozens of circuits, Loo learned the course, became more creative, and attained higher speeds (while performing some cool moves).Intense focus and constant finger work can take their toll on us delicate humans, and even a pro flier can get exhausted.“This is definitely the densest track I’ve ever flown,” Loo said. “One of my faults as a pilot is I get tired easily. When I get mentally fatigued, I start to get lost, even if I’ve flown the course 10 times.”Still, he prevailed, beating JPL’s worthy opponent by fewer than three seconds: In the official laps, Loo averaged 11.1 seconds, versus the autonomous drones’ 13.9 seconds.The battery-powered latter, however, were more consistent overall; whereas Loo’s times varied, the AI flew the same line every lap.“Our autonomous drones can fly much faster,” Reid said. “One day you might see them racing professionally.” Climate Activists Use Drones to Shut Down Heathrow Airport Next MonthUPS Wants to Bring Drone Deliveries to U.S. Hospitals Stay on target
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