November 15, 2012
While fighter pilots risk being shot down, or, in the case of F-22 pilots, suffering oxygen deprivation, it turns out that one of the hazards of flying an unmanned drone is boredom—or at least that’s what researchers at MIT have concluded.
“You might park a UAV over a house, waiting for someone to come in or come out, and that’s where the boredom comes in,” said Mary “Missy” Cummings, quoted in a study released yesterday by MITNews.
Cummings, a former F/A-18 pilot, is the director of the Humans and Automation Lab in MIT’s department of aeronautics and astronautics. She and her team set up a UAV simulation in which operators monitored the activity of four UAVs during a four-hour shift. Each subject was videotaped, and researchers noted when the operators were engaged, and when they were distracted. Not surprisingly, the operator with the highest score was the one who paid the most attention during the simulation. “She’s the person we’d like to clone for a boring, low-workload environment,” Cummings said.
The next-best performers were distracted a whopping 30 percent of the time—either reading a book, getting up to find a snack, or checking their cellphones.
Is being an unmanned aerial vehicle operator that bad? According to CareerCast.com, the worst job of 2012 is lumberjack, followed by dairy farmer and—wait for it—enlisted military soldier. Other hellish jobs include newspaper reporter, meter reader, and conservationist.
In the MIT experiment, participants were asked to rank their personality traits, including extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. Top performers ranked “conscientiousness” as their strong trait. Sounds good, right? Maybe not. “You could have a Catch-22,” says Cummings. “If you’re high on conscientiousness, you might be good to watch a nuclear reactor, but whether these same people would be effective in such military settings is unclear.”
April 18, 2011
I became fascinated by the Xbox 360 Kinect system long before it hit the stores—back when Microsoft was still developing it under the name Project Natal. The commercial product hasn’t yet delivered on the full promise of this demo, but I expect that it will, and fairly soon. Kinect is already the fastest-selling consumer electronics device of all time.
It’s not just virtual volleyball and dancing, either. Hackers started “improving” and fiddling around with Kinect almost from the beginning. Here’s a cool Kinect interaction with Microsoft’s Worldwide Telescope:
December 14, 2010
Awesome. I love the little blast of air they get at around the 48-second mark.
December 22, 2009
December 14, 2009
Real Mars exploration has been at an impasse lately, what with the Spirit rover stuck in the sand, and the Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft both experiencing service interruptions.
But virtual Mars exploration is going gangbusters. Google Mars, if you haven’t tried it yet, is a feature in recent versions of Google Earth that makes Martian tourism easy from your home computer. Google recently added more archived images from the European Mars Express orbiter, so that now nearly half the planet’s surface is covered by imagery having a nominal resolution of 25 meters per pixel. It’s well worth checking out. The long-awaited day where you can explore a convincing representation of Mars based on actual high-resolution data is rapidly approaching.
Here’s a quick overview:
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