For most people, the cockroach doesn't inspire anything but the shivers and a mild sense of revulsion. For scientists at the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley), however, the insect has inspired a whole new way of thinking about robots. After studying the way in which roaches squeeze through tiny cracks and crevices, the team developed a robot with similar capabilities.
The inventors of the Rubik's Cube-solving robot we looked at last month have achieved their goal of setting a new world record for solving a Rubik's Cube in the machine category of the Guinness World Records. But their crown may be short-lived, with another robotic contender appearing to have beaten their time – although unofficially, for the moment.
When it comes to the price of most products, US$40,000 is pretty high. In the case of powered exoskeletons, however, it's cheap – at least half the typical price. Nonetheless, that's approximately what suitX's Phoenix modular exoskeleton should sell for, bringing the technology to a whole new income class. And at 27 lb (12.25 kg), it's also one of the lightest models ever made.
Robots may be the wave of the future, but it will be a pretty chaotic future if they don't learn to work together. This cooperative approach is known as swarm robotics and in a first in the field, a team of engineers has demonstrated a swarm of intelligent aquatic surface robots that can operate together in a real-world environment. Using "Darwinian" learning, the robots are designed to teach themselves how to cooperate in carrying out a task.
Building machines that replicate the delicate touch of a human hand is a complex undertaking that has seen the development of all kinds of soft robotic grippers, from squishy green blobs to boa constrictor-inspired claws. Scientists are now claiming an important advance in this area, demonstrating a robotic device that can better grasp fragile objects through the help of electroadhesion, the very same phenomenon that sees balloons cling to ceilings after being rubbed on your hair.
A software developer from Kansas has developed a robot that can seemingly solve a Rubik's Cube in nigh on one second. Jay Flatland and his friend Paul Rose use a setup that includes a Linux-powered PC, an Arduino, webcams and stepper motors. They are targeting a world record.
If the current batch of robot vacuum cleaners don't seem Jetsony enough, then the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) Robotics lab may have something that fits the bill – an Atlas robot pottering about the lab with a Hoover. While the scenario may not provide an accurate picture of the domestic help of tomorrow, it does show what you can do when you've got a very expensive state-of-the-art humanoid automaton going spare.
While underwater robotics solutions are becoming more and more impressive as the years go by, machines used for delicate activities like collecting samples of marine life or conducting underwater archaeology still sport clunky robotic hands that lack the necessary soft touch. A research team from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has been working to tackle the issue, designing, building and testing a soft gripper solution.
From filling potholes to repairing busted power lines, maintaining a city's infrastructure involves some serious man hours. This labor-intensive task has recently become the target of some roboticists and engineers, who have set their sights on automating at least part of the process. Now startup Addibots is looking to get in on the action, wheeling out a roving 3D printing robot it imagines will scoot around town mending dodgy road surfaces.
Since arriving in 2006, NASA's SPHERES robots have roamed the International Space Station assisting in microgravity research by serving as engineering and robotic testbeds. Now it is time for an upgrade. As NASA prepares to launch SPHERES' successor, a free-flying cube-shaped robot known as Astrobee, it is crowdsourcing design concepts for one of new machine's more noteworthy features, a robotic arm to be used for perching and interacting with objects.