With their precise mechanical movements, robots seem like the most efficient of workers, but they can actually waste a good deal of energy. Chalmers University of Technology is developing a new optimization tool that acts like an efficiency expert for industrial robots by smoothing their movements to reduce their energy consumption by as much as 40 percent.
If you've ever wanted the perfectly mixed drink, you may soon be in mechanized luck. An automated bartender is about to begin serving the public. Makr Shakr is claimed to be the world’s first robotic bar and can apparently mix one Googol (the digit 1 followed by 100 zeroes) drink combinations.
Lower limb exoskeletons show great promise in helping those who have lost the use of their legs to walk again. However, if a person has been rendered quadriplegic, any hand controls in such a device are essentially useless. To help address this and other whole-of-body disabilities, scientists working at Korea University (KU) and Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin), have created a hands-free brain-to-computer interface to control a lower limb exoskeleton by specifically decoding signals from the wearer’s brain.
It was only last month that futurists Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking warned about the dangers of intelligent robots, and a new research project led by the University of Cambridge won't do much to put their minds at ease. Scientists have created a mother robot that can not only build its own children robots, but mimic the process of natural selection to improve their capabilities with each generation.
Staffing bars and restaurants with machines sure sounds convenient, but getting them to collaborate smoothly in such a frenzied environment poses significant hurdles. Their ability to interact with one another and the world around them is just not quite at the level of your typical wait staff. But MIT researchers have made an impressive advance in this area, showcasing a team of three robots that work together to deliver beer, suggesting the technology responsible could translate to cooperative robotic systems for not only bars and restaurants, but hospitals and disaster situations.
Robotics research is moving along at such a fast pace that it can be difficult to spot the major milestones of innovation in the technology as they go by. One significant step forward is in evidence at MIT in the form of Hermes. Physically it's all robot, but its actions and reflexes are controlled by a human being.
The whiskers that help rats find their way around dingy sewers has inspired a tactile sensor that could be used for navigating all manner of dark conditions. Scientists have developed a device capable of generating images of obscured environments by monitoring both air and fluid flow, and which could find its way into biomedical applications.
Last June, a creation known as hitchBOT
successfully hitch-hiked its way across Canada. It has since also
traversed Germany. This July, its team decided to see how it would make
out in the US. Well, it lasted just over two weeks, until it was found destroyed in Philadelphia late last week.
One truism of nuclear reactors is that you really don't want to be next to one. Unfortunately, reactor cores need to be inspected and maintained, which means teams of workers going inside the containment vessel. It's an operation that's not only hazardous, but expensive and time consuming. In an effort to make such inspections safer, cheaper, and faster, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has developed the Stinger; a free-swimming, remote-controlled robot that replaces humans for cleaning and inspecting reactor vessels.
It's widely believed that we're in the middle of a robotics revolution, but at this stage robots are still largely confined to cages doing tasks that don't require a lot of intelligence or interaction with us humans. We spoke with John Lizzi, Manager of the Distributed Intelligent Systems Laboratory at GE Global Research, about General Electric's approach to the future of robotics – specifically the future of what the company calls "service robotics," where robot apprentices will work closely with humans and take over many of the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs of today.