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Volume 5, Issue 441: Friday, January 3, 2003

  • "Tech Industry to Take On Hollywood over Digital Rules"
    SiliconValley.com (01/03/03); Phillips, Heather Fleming

    A new coalition formed from the Business Software Alliance and the Computer Systems Policy Project intends to recruit consumer and business groups to help launch a lobbying campaign that takes aim at copy-protection legislation supported by the entertainment industry. Hollywood had the advantage this past year with an intense lobbying effort and proposed laws from Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) and Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Los Angeles) calling for the installation of copying safeguards into consumer devices, but the tide may be turning. The Republican domination of the Senate will mean the replacement of Hollings with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who regularly criticizes the movie industry, as Commerce Committee Chairman, while the retirement of House Courts and Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.) is another blow to Hollywood. The new coalition wants to make Congress understand that the legislation sponsored by Hollings and Berman is detrimental to scientific innovation, consumers, and the troubled tech industry. Consumer groups and tech companies are already protesting such bills, arguing that they would erode consumers' rights to make copies of digital works for personal use. Congressional members who have introduced legislation that favors the circumvention of copy protection for this reason include Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.). Meanwhile, Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti insists that the movie industry has been misrepresented as anti-consumer, and actually favors the online distribution of films.

  • "Wi-Fi Spectrum Battle Pits Antiterrorism Efforts Against Commercial Growth"
    Computerworld Online (12/31/02); Brewin, Bob

    The U.S. Defense Department wants the use of wireless LANs (WLANs) operating in the lower portion of the 5-GHz band to be restricted, on the grounds that they could potentially interfere with military radar systems' ability to identify terrorist vehicles and enemy missiles or stealth airplanes. The United States made its argument in a paper submitted at a Nov. 11 meeting of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Unlicensed use of Wi-Fi equipment in certain portions of the 5-GHz band is already permitted in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The U.S. paper supports a global allotment for WLANs in the 5.150-5.350 band, provided that radars are shielded by Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS), a security measure that deactivates WLAN transmissions when a radar signal is recognized. Intel's Bill Calder says the industry considers such limitations to be too inflexible. Over 50 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are producing devices that operate in the bands the Defense Department wants to control. Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathias adds that the growth potential of WLANs will override national security concerns and impede the Defense Department's plan, barring "an extraordinary set of circumstances." The U.S. paper was submitted to the ITU as a preliminary draft in preparation for the World Radio Conference in June, where final spectrum decisions will be made.
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  • "Could Fear of Terror Muzzle Science?"
    Associated Press (01/02/03); Cass, Connie

    As a result of Sept. 11, both the U.S. government and researchers are debating how to strike a balance between the long-held tradition of keeping science research open, and worries that terrorists could exploit such research for nefarious purposes. There currently are no federal guidelines dictating what types of research should be kept secret, but attempts to impose restrictions on academic initiatives have met with criticism and refusal: Some major universities have rejected government contracts because they came with the proviso that research required federal approval prior to publication; meanwhile, MIT turned down a $404,000 contract for its Artificial Intelligence Laboratory because the National Security Agency insisted that any foreigners involved in the project be screened in advance. This is an especially thorny issue, because approximately half of physical sciences and engineering graduate students come from overseas. President Bush approved legislation last summer barring students who hail from terrorist-friendly nations from participating in projects that involve certain germs and toxins. The National Academies recently asked the White House to continue to uphold a longstanding tradition of allowing universities to freely publish any research not deemed secret.

  • "For the Gadget Universe, a Common Tongue"
    New York Times (01/02/03) P. E1; Feder, Barnaby J.

    Vanu, the four-year old company founded by Vanu Bose, son of hi-fi inventor and MIT professor Amar Bose, develops software-defined radio for the purpose of enabling disparate devices--cell phones, handheld computers, laptops, etc.--to interoperate, and simplifying their upgrading via software downloads. The U.S. Defense Department, law enforcement, and fire and rescue agencies hope that software radio technology will allow them to more smoothly coordinate operations that otherwise would be hindered by incompatible and inflexible communications devices. Meanwhile, the FCC thinks that software radio could reduce interference by taking advantage of idle parts of the radio spectrum. Vanu's core technology is Spectrum Ware, an early software radio format that was the end result of a four-year DoD-funded project led by Bose. The company's commitment to designing systems that use reusable software chunks, common processors, and open-source products has made it unique. Devices with Vanu software could be upgraded more frequently and more easily than other software radio technologies, thus making software radio cheaper and more widespread. "They are the first people to really push software radio commercially," notes GNU Radio Project leader Eric Blossom. Experts say that the proliferation of software radio over the next 10 years is a foregone conclusion, although several challenges remain, including improving antennas, developing more power-efficient techniques, and making better chips that convert radio waves into digital data streams.
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  • "Breakthrough Brings Laser Light to New Regions of the Spectrum"
    ScienceDaily (01/01/03)

    University of Colorado researchers report in the Jan. 2 issue of Nature that they have developed an extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) laser beam that generates wavelengths that are 10 to 100 times shorter than visible light waves, an innovation that can be applied to lithography and nanotechnology. The breakthrough was accomplished using a "waveguide," a hollow glass tube whose rippled interior induces the laser's light waves to match the speed of EUV beams. "It is as if the laser beam 'surfs' on the modulations and is slowed down--just as the speed bumps on the road slow a car down very simply and very effectively," explains university researcher Margaret Murnane. The EUV beams are produced when the gas-filled waveguide is bombarded by a femtosecond laser. The beam's peak power also tops that of any other light source at the wavelengths it generates. Furthermore, other EUV lasers designed to produce the same wavelengths can be as large as a room, but the apparatus the University of Colorado researchers use is small enough to fit on a table. The scientists' next planned breakthrough is to extend the range of the beam into the spectral region below 4 nanometers, which would enable them to construct a microscope that can view nanoscale structures or image living tissue on a desktop. The Colorado researchers' work is supported by the National Science Foundation.

  • "Composer Harnesses Artificial Intelligence to Create Music"
    EE Times (12/30/02); Johnson, R. Colin

    Award-winning composer Eduardo Reck Miranda is working on computer programs that can learn to create their own music. Miranda, an expert in artificial intelligence and researcher for Sony Computer Science Laboratories, previously made programs that mimicked existing musical styles. While these song pieces sounded good, the artificial intelligence programs or neural networks that created them were not truly inventive. Miranda says he is instigating what he calls evolutionary musicology, based on artificial life models. First, Miranda sets up cells in a two-dimensional grid, where each cell can only communicate with nearby cells. Each cell holds to certain processes and uses composition tools, and when the entire set is working together repetitiously, a pattern soon emerges. This two-dimensional pattern is translated into audio signals by a synthesizer program Miranda created. Although Miranda has accompanied the sounds on piano before audiences, he admits they do not sound like much on their own. However, the cellular automata system saves its best songs to improve upon, and Miranda believes his theoretical work is important because it is evidence of computers actively composing music rather than reorganizing established knowledge. Eventually, Miranda hopes to enhance his music composing programs with cognitive and physical abilities.

  • "Getting Smart About Predictive Intelligence"
    Boston Globe (12/30/02) P. C1; Kirsner, Scott

    Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner expects the major technology debate of 2003 to revolve around the use of predictive intelligence, which is being employed in the private sector for marketing purposes, but, more importantly, lies at the heart of the Total Information Awareness system being developed by the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA). The purpose of the Total Information Awareness system is to root out terrorists and prevent terrorist acts by focusing on suspicious online transactions, but organizations such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Electronic Frontier Foundation argue that it is in fact little more than an unconstitutional public surveillance system that supercedes citizens' privacy rights. There are also objections over the choice of retired Navy Admiral and Iran-Contra scandal figure John Poindexter to lead the Total Information Awareness project. Meanwhile, companies that deal in predictive intelligence software and services see a beneficial side in the business world: The technology helps them collate profiles of customers in order to more effectively market products. Still, Genalytics founder Doug Newell acknowledges that projects such as Total Information Awareness should set limits on what kinds of data can be collected, how long that data should be retained, and what should be done with it. He adds that Poindexter's project is unworkable, because there have been so few U.S.-based terrorist incidents on which to build reliable terrorist profiles. If the system fails to achieve its primary goal, then it might be used by local law enforcement to single out people that commit minor crimes such as parking violations.

  • "IT Staffing Crisis Looms in India"
    Wired News (12/31/02); Sinha, Ashutosh

    Many multinationals turn to India for their IT-enabled services and business processes so that they can take advantage of cheaper labor and low operations costs, and consulting firm McKinsey reports that Indian outsourcing companies could earn as much as $24 billion in revenues by 2008--if they can weather a shortage of experienced middle and senior-level management personnel. More than 200 Indian universities churn out over 1 million graduates each year, but there are far more entry-level employees than experienced managers. Furthermore, many third-party outsourcing firms are young companies in a young industry, which increases the difficulty of finding qualified management. It is less difficult to attract such personnel for captive business process outsourcing centers that are basically branches of Europe- or U.S.-based companies that can afford to train new managers. This leaves newer companies with the difficult task of hiring people away from such firms. However, National Association of Software and Service Companies President Kiran Karnik points out that this strategy alone will not encourage growth in India's IT sector. What is needed is more investments in employee training, he insists. Dr. Sridhar Mitta of e4e Labs observes that "the shortage of people is similar to the one faced by IT service companies a few years ago."

  • "New Strategy in the War on Spammers"
    New York Times (01/02/03) P. E7; Austen, Ian

    AT&T Labs researcher Dr. John Ioannidis will present a paper in February that details a system he has devised to combat spam by creating "single-purpose addresses" that senders can use to recipients they either have no continuing relationship with or who they do not trust. Such addresses would be short-lived and could be restricted to certain domains through the use of special software. With an on-screen menu, the user would first determine the duration of the address' existence, and then what domains it would work for. This data as well as the user's permanent email address would be incorporated into a code that would be translated into a 26-character string. The single-purpose address would consist of the string and the user's domain. Should his system become widely adopted, Dr. Ioannidis believes that mail spamming lists will be riddled with worthless email addresses and thus lose their usefulness to spammers, although such a process could take decades. Meanwhile, Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email co-founder John Mozena still thinks that imposing anti-spam legislation will be far more effective. "[Dr. Ioannidis' technology is] adding insult to injury to also have us spend time, money and effort on tools to keep spam out of our mailboxes," he declares.
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  • "Giving Robots the Gift of Sight"
    CNet (12/30/02); Frauenheim, Ed

    Carnegie Mellon University professor Hans Moravec has developed a 3D robotic vision system that includes stereoscopic digital cameras and a 3D grid composed of 32 million digital cells that a machine can use to reliably navigate through homes and offices. The system enables the robot to triangulate its distance from objects by noting how the object is placed in each camera image, and applying a geometric equation. The grid is used to resolve incomplete or confusing data--objects visible in one lens but unseen in the other, blank walls, etc.--which makes it well suited for operation in cluttered areas. Moravec, who has focused on robot vision and navigation since the 1970s, says that such a system will allow robots to automatically shift to different environmental settings. He wants to initially outfit industrial robots with the vision system so they will be more effective, and he notes that the technology eliminates the need to deploy navigational cues such as reflective tape and bar codes on walls and objects. HelpMate inventor Joe Engelberger says that vision is probably the single most important sense for a robot to have, but identification capability is also critical. Moravec expects that his system's 3D grid will also assist in object recognition. He has partnered with Botfactory to develop a prototype robot "head," once $5 million in investment capital has been secured; he says that FMC Technologies and Germany-based Karcher have expressed interest.

  • "Happy Birthday, Dear Internet"
    Wired News (12/31/02); Jaffe, Justin

    When exactly the Internet was born is a matter of debate, but many agree that Jan. 1, 1983, is a significant date because that was when its Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) precursor transitioned from Network Control Protocol (NCP) to Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). TCP/IP came out of ARPANET administrators' realization that the network's exponential growth could only be sustained by a new protocol that could handle increasing complexity. "[The protocol] was designed to be future-proof and to run on any communication system," explains TCP/IP co-designer Vint Cerf. However, not everyone agreed on TCP/IP as the standard that should be adopted. "We had to jam it down their throats," Cerf recalls. Some historians place the Internet's birthday in 1961, when MIT's Dr. Leonard Kleinrock published a document on packet-switching technology. Still others believe 1969 is the key date, since that was when ARPANET was commissioned by the Defense Department to research a communication and command network that could remain operational during a nuclear war. And some mark the 1970s, a decade that saw the emergence of email and the shift of ARPANET from military tool to public resource, as significant.

  • "Inside the World of Extreme Programming"
    NewsFactor Network (01/02/03); Brockmeier, Joe

    Extreme Programming (XP), in which coders are paired up so that they can constantly scrutinize and improve each other's work, is seen by corporate IT managers as a way to make software development more efficient. "Extreme Programming Installed" co-author Ron Jeffries notes that the technique is best suited for mid-sized teams of programmers following a project that can be developed in stages and has room for experimentation. He explains that "Since one of the goals of XP is to bring down the cost of change, it doesn't work as well in huge-scale engineering projects, such as the space shuttle, where the specifications have to be nailed down." O'Reilly Network technical editor "chromatic" comments that some software developers are reluctant to adopt XP methods, which demonstrates how hard it is to actually impose any kind of revisions. The requirement that teams be co-located also presents problems to developing open source projects with the XP approach, according to Jeffries. Programmer and author Kent Beck, who has outlined a 12-step XP strategy, says that complying with each step in the process does not guarantee success. Still, he claims that XP is finding use in both small and large firms, with more adopters in the former category. Meanwhile, chromatic explains that IT managers should remember that the technique is supposed to achieve results in the long term rather than the short term.

  • "Toward a More Secure 2003"
    Business Week Online (12/31/02); Salkever, Alex

    The year 2003 will hold numerous challenges for corporate security managers, but also yield opportunities to boost computer security through technology and software advancements. Message Labs reports that the growth rate of junk email, or spam, will continue to outpace that of legitimate email. Companies that do not wish to lose productivity should invest in antispam software now, even though such programs can sometimes mistake genuine messages for garbage. Spammers have also begun to target instant messaging (IM), and the lack of IM spam-screening software may force many enterprises to transfer their IM users onto private messaging systems. Remote computing outside of corporate boundaries is becoming more common thanks to the growth of public broadband connections; this and computer virus epidemics is spurring companies to install security software on all desktops. Security products' transition from software to hardware comes with an array of benefits and drawbacks: Examples of the former include simple, cheap installation and deployment, while examples of the latter include less adaptable systems. Credit reports on thousands of American citizens are already accessible over the Web, so major occurrences of online identity theft are likely this year. Other trends just starting to take off include the integration of physical and online security, and increased deployment of software that tracks down intellectual property thieves.
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  • "Technology Jobs are Increasingly Going Small Tech"
    Small Times (12/23/02); Fussell, Ellen

    A background in nanotechnology could be very helpful in securing future careers for engineers, and Ardesta recruiting director Marlo Pabst notes that nanotech and microtechnologies are based on similar engineering theory. However, she acknowledges that commercialization of nanotech products may take longer, given the technology's small scale. She suggests that engineers seeking a job along these lines should be familiar with design and processing, and capable of creative thinking. Companies that produce microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) include Advanced MicroMachines and Goodrich, which create tailor-made MEMS for original equipment manufacturers in the aerospace, transportation, telecommunications, and biomedical industries; Analog Devices, which makes single-chip MEMS accelerometers that Bill Eaton of NP Photonics says are incorporated into virtually all automotive air-bag systems; Motorola, which provides MEMS-based sensors with proficiency in high-volume manufacturing; MEMSIC, which produces MEMS integrated circuits; and Siemens, whose specialty is micromachined automotive products. Meanwhile, MEMS developer ISSYS is planning to double its workforce next year once production begins, and Oxonica will use patented assembly methods to manufacture nanoparticles thanks to $46 million in venture capital. Optical switches are another hot area, but Eaton warns that most optical switch start-ups have scaled down their business plans or been driven out of business. He also says, "The job market for nanotechnology is quite small and generally limited to start-up companies that aren't shipping products." The automotive industry holds much more promise for MEMS engineers, Eaton explains.

  • "2002: The Year in Technology"
    New Scientist Online (12/25/02); Knight, Will

    Notable developments in the technology sector this past year included id Quantique's debut of the first commercial quantum encryption device in June, while QinetiQ transmitted a quantum-bit signal over 23 kilometers in October, and Australian researchers unveiled a simple quantum information processing device one month later. The entertainment industry rolled out copy-protection technologies designed to curb piracy of digital music and movies, but this engendered controversy when tech companies complained that such safeguards could cause normal systems to malfunction. A law proposed in June that would allow copyright holders to hack into file-sharing networks and connected computers to prevent infringement also provoked heavy criticism. The nanotechnology sector burst with innovations in 2002: The creation of a "nano-thermometer" fashioned from a single carbon nanotube was disclosed in February, while in April researchers accidentally discovered that carbon nanotubes are combustible when exposed to a camera flash. In addition, IBM scientists demonstrated in June that a nanoscale version of a punch card could significantly raise the bar for computer storage. Japan took the supercomputing lead in April with the unveiling of the Earth Simulator, while in November IBM declared its intentions to build two supercomputers with even more processing power over the next three years. China became the No. 2 country with the most Internet penetration as 56.6 million people went online in April, but this news was tempered by reports of the Chinese government blocking access to certain Internet sites. Microsoft's announcement of the Palladium operating system in June invited criticism from those who claimed it could be used to restrict computer usage, while in May researchers at the State University of New York built the world's first radio-controlled automaton by implanting radio-controlled electrodes in the brains of rats.

  • "Realer Than Real"
    Nikkei Weekly (12/23/02) Vol. 40, No. 2061, P. 3; Naito, Minoru

    Head-mounted display (HMD) technologies are an example of "mixed reality" systems that promise to seamlessly integrate computer-generated data and imagery with the real world, and Japan is leading the charge in this area: Japanese hospitals have made the technology an essential tool in surgical procedures, while other uses for HMDs are being found in the automotive design, entertainment, and disaster preparation sectors. Toppan Printing, in conjunction with Takashi Kawai of Waseda University, is working on a mixed reality system that combines HMDs with the Global Positioning System to offer 3D graphical overlays that show visitors to museums and archeological digs what ruins must have looked like in ancient times. Meanwhile, Canon has partnered with SGI Japan to develop a mixed reality product for automotive manufacturers and parts suppliers that allows potential customers to see detailed, 3D images of cars as well as experience simulated travel. Communications Research Laboratory has built a facility designed to simulate natural disasters--earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc.--so that local and national government officials can better prepare for such catastrophes and implement measures that will significantly reduce the loss of life and property. Experts such as Shunichi Kita of the Nomura Research Institute forecast that over the next 10 years the HMD market will surge in much the same way the cell phone market did. Mainstream adoption of HMDs and mixed reality systems will depend on researchers developing lighter, more comfortable products. Optical companies are supplying hardware for such efforts. Minolta, for example, has developed a 25-gram holographic HMD that can be attached to the frame of the user's glasses.

  • "Who's Winning the Cyberwars?"
    Security Management (12/02) Vol. 46, No. 12, P. 70; Piazza, Peter

    The Sept. 11 attacks and the Nimda virus outbreak have helped raise the profile of cybersecurity and the need to defend cyberspace from increasingly sophisticated hackers, virus writers, and cyberterrorists who go after specific targets such as critical Internet infrastructure. Among the countermeasures being instituted and developed are collaborations between the public and private sectors, in which companies share information about computer break-ins and vulnerabilities with law enforcement and the federal government; the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, which lists recommendations that home users, small businesses, and worldwide enterprises should voluntarily follow to ensure cybersecurity; and increased government focus on cybercrime, which FBI agent Scott Larson says owes much to public-private liaisons. Companies are refocusing on security basics as a result of the economic slowdown and budgetary cutbacks, and giving more attention to preparing for cybersecurity incidents, adopting best practices, and improving executive buy-in. Trend Micro's David Perry reports that system administrators are becoming more aware of the need to keep track of and install security patches, and Green Mountain Coffee CIO Jim Prevo notes increased use of firewall upgrading and scanning for email-borne viruses. Government privacy regulations that implement the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act are also spurring the adoption of best practices, while Howard Schmidt of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board observes that business executives have started to realize that cybersecurity and physical security are a vital component of core business processes. He says, "The big challenges of the next year are to continue to keep the enthusiasm up, and focus on cybersecurity issues as a whole as we start moving forward with the new [homeland security] department." The integration of physical security and IT makes security an important part of corporate culture, says Dr. Phyllis Schneck of the FBI's InfraGard program.

  • "Beyond the Information Age"
    Optimize (12/02) No. 14, P. 72; Davis, Stan

    Futurist and author Stan Davis writes that the information economy passed its midpoint with the launch of the Internet, and will segue to a biotech economy in the late 2020s. He recommends that CIOs should prepare for this transition by concentrating on projected changes in the role of IT, as well as management style and organization. Biotech follows a bottom-up model, so it is likely that companies will undergo a similar change and implement sense/response strategies underlined by a constantly volatile environment. Vertical business processes will give way to horizontal processes, while networked, distributed, interdependent, or alliance-reliant templates will serve as corporate foundations, as opposed to the linear, hierarchical, integrated, or independent models most businesses are currently based on. IT will determine how these forms will manifest themselves and which will be the most prevalent. Meanwhile, digital data will be transformed into a utility within a decade, and the value of intangible products and services such as software will rise. Economic development has started to follow a child-centric model, which takes into account the fact that later generations are more adept with new technologies than previous generations. Managers will have to make sound and video--fundamental tools of the Internet generation--a key part of their management style. Davis has outlined a three-month strategy CIOs can follow in order to prepare for the next economic shift: In the first month, they should meet with experts to discuss future trends; in the second, managers should encourage staff to thoroughly research rivals, customers, and industry so they understand where future threats and challenges might come from; and in the third month, CIOs should focus on long-term plans to connect customers and how technology can empower both the customer and the enterprise.

  • "Robotic Heroes"
    Laptop (12/02) Vol. 21, No. 23, P. 108; Hendrickson, Nancy

    Advanced robots that can function in areas or situations too dangerous for humans are finding use in the military, law enforcement, and even the space program. Battlefield robots under development or in use include iRobot's Bloodhound, a machine that can autonomously navigate its way to wounded soldiers and administer medical treatment; and Packbot, another iRobot product that was used in Afghanistan to search caves for al Qaeda or Taliban fighters. Current research focuses on equipping Packbots with sensors to detect biological agents, a function already built into the Mini-ANDROS II police robot, which is used in SWAT operations, surveillance, and bomb disposal, and can circumvent obstacles using an articulated track system. The Micromechanical Flying Insect, currently under development at the University of California at Berkeley, is modeled after winged insects to be a small, airborne machine that could theoretically spy on enemy troops with impunity, among other things. The Sept. 11 bombing provided an opportunity to demonstrate search-and-rescue robots, which were employed to sift through the wreckage of the World Trade Center for trapped people; the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is working on a device that can root through collapsed buildings and mines, or sense dangerous acids or chemicals. PARC researcher Dr. Craig Eldershaw is working on PolyBots, robots that consist of modules that work as a team and can reconfigure themselves to suit the environment. Robots in use at NASA include remotely operated vehicles such as the Mars Sojourner, while Robonaut, a joint project between the Johnson Space Center and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is a partially-humanoid machine designed to assist astronauts in maintenance and construction projects. A major challenge to improving robot technologies involves investing the machines with a sense of autonomy, and Carnegie Mellon University's Howie Choset notes that "The challenges in making autonomous robots are in developing algorithms that are guaranteed or proven to work, developing complete algorithms that are robust, interpreting sensor information--perception and positioning a robot."

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