Temple of the Autonomous Machine

[Image: The archaeological robot Tlaloc II-TC, a design descendent of Tlaloque I, courtesy of INAH/Cortesía].

A news item over at Archaeology reports that a little wireless robot called Tlaloc II-TC will soon “investigate the far reaches of a tunnel found beneath the Temple of the Plumed Serpent at Teotihuacan,” entering a chamber “estimated to be 2,000 years old, and [that] may have been used as a place for royal ceremonies or burials.”

[Image: The archaeological robot Tlaloc II-TC, courtesy of INAH/Cortesía].

The robot will then make laser scans of the interior.

[Image: Sergio Gomez from the INAH shows some preliminary findings; photo by Henry Romero, courtesy of Reuters, via NBC].

This is only the “third time anywhere in the world that such an automaton [has been] used to design excavation strategies,” adds HispanicallySpeakingNews.com.

[Image: The robot design team and different models of the surveyors; photos by Alma Rodríguez for El Universal].

Incredibly, though, the mission—called “Project Tlalocan, Underground Road”—will also involve a smaller robot, described as a “bug,” that will be deployed by Tlaloc II.

According to my own bad, Google-assisted translation of an article published in Provincia, “The team also has a robot ‘bug’ that is carried by the lead vehicle, which descends based on instructions from a computer. It measures 40 cm with outstretched arms and carries an infrared camera, and it conducts exploration of ground-level terrain, avoiding obstacles.”

[Image: The robot design team and different models of the surveyors; photos by Alma Rodríguez for El Universal].

It gets even more interesting when we then read that there is yet another, “third part” of the ensemble, a “robot made with four propellers” that can “remain suspended in the air and take pictures with video cameras.”

It’s a drone, in other words—part of a whole family of proliferating machines—but, for now, it will only be “used outdoors due to currents of air in the tunnel.”

[Image: The earlier generation Tlaloque 1 robot prepares to roll into the Temple of the Plumed Serpent; image courtesy of Past Horizons].

But how extraordinary it is to read about these and other collaborations between teams of roboticists and archaeologists, and to realize that excavating the past will soon mean deploying teams of remote-sensing robotic machines semi-autonomously flying, crawling, gridding, scanning, squeezing, and non-destructively burrowing their way into lost rooms and buried cities, perhaps even translating ancient languages along the way.

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