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Jason Falconer

Jason Falconer

Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers.

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— Robotics

DARPA's advanced prosthetics give bomb disposal robot a delicate touch

By - June 19, 2013 18 Pictures
A new bomb disposal robot developed at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is blurring the line between advanced prosthetics and robotics. Rather than building arms and hands from scratch specifically for the robot, the Bimanual Dexterous Robotics Platform (BDRP) is equipped with artificial limbs designed for amputees. The combination is relatively unique, and provided the team with a secondary use for the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) it developed for the DARPA Revolutionizing Prosthetics program. Read More
— Robotics

Unleash the Kraken! Robot octopus learning to swim

By - June 18, 2013 7 Pictures
The octopus is a natural escape artist. It can squeeze its soft body into impossibly tight spaces and often baffles aquarium workers with its ability to break out of tanks. These abilities could be very useful in an underwater robot, which is why the OCTOPUS Project, a consortium of European robotics labs, is attempting to reverse engineer it in all its tentacled glory. Now researchers from the Foundation for Research and Technology (FORTH), in Hellas, Greece are learning how the robot might use its tentacles to swim. Read More
— Children

Is this the world's smallest RC helicopter toy?

By - June 17, 2013 11 Pictures
Namco Bandai subsidiary CCP toys has launched its Nano-Falcon remote-controlled helicopter toy, which it claims is the world's smallest. The Nano-Falcon, which is designed for indoor flight, has a body size of just 6.5 cm (2.5 in) long and weighs a scant 11 g (0.38 oz). The infrared controller, which takes four AA alkaline batteries, has a range of just 5 m (16 ft), which may be a good thing, lest you lose sight of it! Read More
— Robotics

DARPA challenges virtual robots before the real ones step in

By - June 7, 2013 8 Pictures
Teams vying for a spot in the historic DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) must first prove themselves in the Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) later this month. The VRC digitally simulates the physical challenges slated to take place at the tail end of the year, where real robots will get down and dirty for the first time. A total of 26 teams qualified to take part in the VRC, but only eight of them will earn the privilege of working with their very own ATLAS humanoid. Others will participate with their own unique robots. Read More
— Robotics

Mini humanoid robots are beginning to walk more like people

By - June 5, 2013 5 Pictures
While there are several humanoid robot kits available to hobbyists, most of them leave much to be desired when it comes to walking the way we do. The fact that they can move on two feet at all is pretty cool, but most simply bend their knees and make a series of quick little steps, resulting in a gait which looks like they're shuffling rather than really walking. Professional roboticists and programmers are now beginning to show some improvements that are worth seeing in action. Read More
— 3D Printing

New flexible materials pave the way for 3D-printed clothing

By - June 3, 2013 13 Pictures
Most 3D-printed objects are made out of rigid plastic or resin materials that aren't necessarily ideal for every project. Now, for a limited time online shops like i.materialise are offering designers the chance to play with experimental materials that have properties akin to rubber. Currently these materials are only being offered on a limited basis, but they're already paving the way for new ideas, including one haute couture dress that paraded down the catwalk at Spring Fashion Week 2013 earlier this year. Read More
— Robotics

Harvard's flying robot insect can now hover and steer

By - May 8, 2013 5 Pictures
Almost since the beginning of their existence, robots have taken inspiration from one of nature's wonders: insects. Technological limitations typically prevent these robots from matching the small size of their many-legged muses, resulting in gargantuan examples like Festo's BionicOpter dragonfly. In stark contrast is Harvard's RoboBee, which is the first in the world to demonstrate controlled flight by an insect-sized robot. Read More
— Robotics

iRobot yields impressive results for DARPA's ARM program

By - May 1, 2013 10 Pictures
Back when DARPA first announced its Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program in 2010, the average cost of a military-grade robot hand was around US$50,000. That's expensive even by the US military's standards – especially for something that is bound to be in close contact with explosives – which is why the hardware team of the ARM program tasked participants with developing a reliable low-cost hand. Now, thanks to work by iRobot (yes, the company that makes the Roomba robotic vacuum) and researchers at Harvard and Yale, the ARM program has a surprisingly effective new hand to play with that costs just $3,000 (in batches of 1,000 or more). Read More
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